7th Anniversary of h-madness: Upcoming Changes

To All Our Readers and Contributors:

Today marks the seventh anniversary of h-madness. When we began this blog in 2010, we started it in the knowledge that there was great interest in the history of mental health and psychiatry out there as well as a vibrant and innovative community of scholars. Up to that point, however, we had no online site where those of us engaged in the study of the history of madness could exchange timely information about meetings, events, publications, and interests. Over the years, we have not only circulated the details about conferences, articles, and books, but also posted book reviews, film reviews, reviews of exhibitions, and autobiographical commentaries.

It has not escaped our notice, however, that over the recent past the blog has been primarily limited to reporting on upcoming conferences and talks and new publications. It is our belief, however, that the strength of an online site lies in its ability to offer far more dynamic and unconventional opportunities for professional communication.

For that reason, over the coming months, we will be revamping the website and enhancing its content. Among other things, this will likely involve migrating the website to a university server and reorganizing the site’s administration.

In addition, we will be recruiting new contributors. In the near future, we will issue a more formal Call for Collaborators. But if you are interested in getting actively involved in h-madness, please feel free to get in touch with us at <hpsychiatry [at] gmail.com>.

Stay tuned for me details as things progress. And keep in mind that the editors here at h-madness are always eager to hear your thoughts on how to make the site better. So please contact us to share your ideas.

The Editors

Appel à communication – Les infirmières de la folie

Drawing of staff member represented as a pig Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images images@wellcome.ac.uk http://wellcomeimages.org Patton State Hospital, San Bernardino, California: a staff member represented as a pig, asleep in a chair. Drawing by D.R. Wilder, ca. 1954. Wilder, Dudley Raymond, 1916-1957.  "The superior type (you know who)" One drawing of twelve in a sketchbook inscribed "Dudley R. Wilder". There is a record of a Dudley Raymond Wilder (1916-1957) who worked as a commercial artist in California from the 1930s to the 1950s and served as a staff sergeant in the US Marine Corps in 1943-1944. The quality of the drawings, and some of the military references, suggest they could well be by him, possibly in the last years of his life where confinement preceded an early death at the age of 41. Pencil drawing 1954 By: Dudley Raymond WilderPublished: [1954?] Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons by-nc-nd 4.0, see http://wellcomeimages.org/indexplus/page/Prices.html

Drawing of staff member represented as a pig Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images Patton State Hospital, San Bernardino, California: a staff member represented as a pig, asleep in a chair. Drawing by D.R. Wilder, ca. 1954.

Les infirmières de la folie*

Histoire et évolution des soins infirmiers en psychiatrie au sein de l’espace francophone


85e congrès de l’ACFAS

Université McGill, Montréal

8 et 9 mai 2017


Responsables :

Alexandre Klein, Université Laval

Marie-Claude Thifault, Université d’Ottawa

Karine Aubin, Université d’Ottawa

Organisé dans le cadre du 85e Congrès de l’ACFAS, ce colloque propose de réunir des historiennes mais aussi des professionnelles de santé, afin d’étudier l’évolution du rôle de l’infirmières dans la prise en charge de la santé mentale. Il entend tout particulièrement se pencher sur l’expérience des infirmières en milieu psychiatrique comme dans les autres contextes de soin. Son ambition est de mettre en lumière les conditions de naissance et de transformations, dans l’espace francophone, des soins infirmiers psychiatriques en tant que spécialité à part entière. Il abordera pour ce faire l’histoire de la figure de l’infirmière psychiatrique ainsi que de l’ensemble des pratiques, discours et représentations qui participent à son travail de prise en charge de la folie. Il s’attardera également sur l’évolution de l’enseignement et de la formation qui lui sont offerts, ainsi que sur les éléments contribuant à l’affirmation de son champ de compétence comme d’une spécialité infirmière à part entière (création de revues spécialisées, de sociétés dédiées, organisation de congrès, etc.). Si les espaces canadiens, et plus particulièrement québécois, seront au centre de cette manifestation, les travaux ouvrant à la comparaison avec d’autres pays francophones seront tout particulièrement valorisés.


Les propositions attendues pourront concerner (liste non exhaustive) :

§  L’évolution de la figure de l’infirmière d’asile et de ses représentations

§  Les institutions de formation spécialisée et les enseignements qui y étaient proposés

§  Les revues spécialisées et les manifestations scientifiques dédiées au nursing psychiatrique

§  Les enjeux professionnels et syndicaux propre à cette spécialité

§  Le rôle spécifique de l’infirmière psychiatrique dans les équipes multidisciplinaires

§  L’impact du genre dans le développement des stratégies gouvernementales et institutionnelles en santé mentale

§  Les défis infirmiers entourant le projet de désinstitutionnalisation psychiatrique

§  Les relations du nursing psychiatrique comme spécialité avec le domaine général des sciences infirmières


Les chercheures ou professionnelles de santé intéressées sont invitées à soumettre avant le 20 février 2017 et à l’adresse suivante 301.ACFAS2017@gmail.com des propositions de communication individuelle de 20 minutes contenant :

·         Les noms et prénoms du (des) auteur(s)

·         Une adresse courriel de référence

·         L’université ou établissement de rattachement

·         Le titre de la communication envisagée

·         Un résumé de 250 mots maximum

·         Une courte biobibliographie des auteures


* Afin de faciliter la lecture du présent texte, nous avons employé le féminin comme genre neutre pour désigner aussi bien les femmes que les homme

New Articles first online – Social History of Medicine

4-coverSocial History of Medicine has prepublished online two articles that may interest the readers of h-madness.

Katariina Parhi and Petteri Pietikainen “Socialising the Anti-Social: Psychopathy, Psychiatry and Social Engineering in Finland, 1945–1968.” The abstract reads as follows:

This article argues that in Finland during the two decades after the Second World War, the diagnosis of psychopathy represented a failed attempt to adjust ‘difficult’ individuals to the social order. Discussing the social and medical character of the diagnosis, we examine psychopathy using the analytic and historical framework of social engineering in post-war Finland. We utilise patient records, official documents and psychiatric publications and analyse the diagnostic uses of psychopathy and its associations with social maladjustment. We also address the question of how mental health care in the less-developed northern part of Finland grappled with behavioural deviance, and especially with behaviour deemed ‘anti-social’. Contextualising psychopathy as a marker of individual disorganisation within the development of social organisation, this article contributes to historical scholarship that maps mental disorders onto the historical development of the nation.

Steven J. Taylor: “‘She was frightened while pregnant by a monkey at the zoo’: Constructing the Mentally-imperfect Child in Nineteenth-century England.” The abstract reads as follows:

Classifications and concepts of insanity during the nineteenth century were constructed by numerous professional, quasi-professional and lay observers. Consequently, ideas of mental ill health and its causes were varied. This article explores how ‘insanity’ in children was observed, explained and evolved following 1845. It focuses on medico-cultural exchanges between families and doctors to plot shifts in how child mental health was understood. Numerous causes of insanity were given at admission including terrifying dogs, out of control lunatics and even visits to the zoo shocking expectant mothers so severely that they produced mentally-imperfect children. Such narratives were superseded by a dialogue that still included the family and their ideas, but also served the professional and intellectual agenda of medical men in consolidating their expertise over the insane. The article examines varied ideas of insanity, highlights the importance of the family in influencing medical understanding and introduces the experience of asylums for children.

Found thanks to Advances in the History of Psychology.

Book announcement – Law and the Modern Mind Consciousness and Responsibility in American Legal Culture

9780674048935-lgSusanna L. Blumenthal, Professor of Law and Associate Professor of History at the University of Minnesota, has published a book on “the jurisprudence of insanity” across the long nineteenth century in the United States. The blurb reads:

In postrevolutionary America, the autonomous individual was both the linchpin of a young nation and a threat to the founders’ vision of ordered liberty. Conceiving of self-government as a psychological as well as a political project, jurists built a republic of laws upon the Enlightenment science of the mind with the aim of producing a responsible citizenry. Susanna Blumenthal probes the assumptions and consequences of this undertaking, revealing how ideas about consciousness, agency, and accountability have shaped American jurisprudence.

Focusing on everyday adjudication, Blumenthal shows that mental soundness was routinely disputed in civil as well as criminal cases. Litigants presented conflicting religious, philosophical, and medical understandings of the self, intensifying fears of a populace maddened by too much liberty. Judges struggled to reconcile common sense notions of rationality with novel scientific concepts that suggested deviant behavior might result from disease rather than conscious choice. Determining the threshold of competence was especially vexing in litigation among family members that raised profound questions about the interconnections between love and consent. This body of law coalesced into a jurisprudence of insanity, which also illuminates the position of those to whom the insane were compared, particularly children, married women, and slaves. Over time, the liberties of the eccentric expanded as jurists came to recognize the diversity of beliefs held by otherwise reasonable persons.

In calling attention to the problematic relationship between consciousness and liability, Law and the Modern Mind casts new light on the meanings of freedom in the formative era of American law.

To get more information, click here.

BBC video feature: Uncovering the history of madness

bedlam-main-imageUncovering the history of madness

London’s Wellcome Collection brought together various artists to create the exhibition, ‘Bedlam: the asylum & beyond‘. It tackles the rise and fall of mental asylums, and looks at how mental illness is handled now. David Beales is one of the artists taking part. He uses his first-hand experiences of living in psychiatric hospitals to create art and raise awareness around mental health issues. He told the BBC’s Dan Damon about his experiences.

To access the video interview, click here.

Book announcement – Freud by Elisabeth Roudinesco


The French Freud biography by Elisabeth Roudinesco has now be translated and published by Harvard University Press. The blurb reads

Élisabeth Roudinesco offers a bold and modern reinterpretation of the iconic founder of psychoanalysis. Based on new archival sources, this is Freud’s biography for the twenty-first century—a critical appraisal, at once sympathetic and impartial, of a genius greatly admired and yet greatly misunderstood in his own time and in ours.

Roudinesco traces Freud’s life from his upbringing as the eldest of eight siblings in a prosperous Jewish-Austrian household to his final days in London, a refugee of the Nazis’ annexation of his homeland. She recreates the milieu of fin de siècle Vienna in the waning days of the Habsburg Empire—an era of extraordinary artistic innovation, given luster by such luminaries as Gustav Klimt, Stefan Zweig, and Gustav Mahler. In the midst of it all, at the modest residence of Berggasse 19, Freud pursued his clinical investigation of nervous disorders, blazing a path into the unplumbed recesses of human consciousness and desire.

Yet this revolutionary who was overthrowing cherished notions of human rationality and sexuality was, in his politics and personal habits, in many ways conservative, Roudinesco shows. In his chauvinistic attitudes toward women, and in his stubborn refusal to acknowledge the growing threat of Hitler until it was nearly too late, even the analytically-minded Freud had his blind spots. Alert to his intellectual complexity—the numerous tensions in his character and thought that remained unresolved—Roudinesco ultimately views Freud less as a scientific thinker than as the master interpreter of civilization and culture.

For more information, click here.

New Issue – Bulletin of the History of Medicine


The fourth 2016 issue of Bulletin of the History of Medicine is now out and includes at least one article that may be of interest to H-Madness readers.

“The Weight of Perhaps Ten or a Dozen Human Lives”: Suicide, Accountability, and the Life-Saving Technologies of the Asylum by Kathleen M. Brian
By accounting for the law’s productive capacity to structure asylum physicians’ encounters with suicide, this essay argues that the antebellum asylum was a technology for the preservation of life. The essay first shows how suicide’s history as a crime encouraged popular attributions of suicide to insanity. What began as a tactic to protect survivors, however, ended by bolstering the professional claims of asylum medicine. Initially it appeared there was much to gain from claiming suicide as their own, but dominion over prevention in fact rendered asylum physicians and their staffs vulnerable in unanticipated ways: for while agents of suicide were effectively evacuated of legal responsibility, a variety of laws made physicians more accountable than ever. Focusing on medical superintendent Amariah Brigham and his staff at the New York State Lunatic Asylum shows how the anxiety of assuming guardianship over the suicidal created networks of accountability that profoundly affected daily life.


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