Posts Tagged ‘ Great Britain ’

New issue – Medical History


Medical History published its new issue which includes some articles that could be of interest to H-Madness readers.

Jonathan Toms, Citizenship and Learning Disabled People: The Mental Health Charity MIND’s 1970s Campaign in Historical Context

Current policy and practice directed towards people with learning disabilities originates in the deinstitutionalisation processes, civil rights concerns and integrationist philosophies of the 1970s and 1980s. However, historians know little about the specific contexts within which these were mobilised. Although it is rarely acknowledged in the secondary literature, MIND was prominent in campaigning for rights-based services for learning disabled people during this time. This article sets MIND’s campaign within the wider historical context of the organisation’s origins as a main institution of the inter-war mental hygiene movement. The article begins by outlining the mental hygiene movement’s original conceptualisation of ‘mental deficiency’ as the antithesis of the self-sustaining and responsible individuals that it considered the basis of citizenship and mental health. It then traces how this equation became unravelled, in part by the altered conditions under the post-war Welfare State, in part by the mental hygiene movement’s own theorising. The final section describes the reconceptualisation of citizenship that eventually emerged with the collapse of the mental hygiene movement and the emergence of MIND. It shows that representations of MIND’s rights-based campaigning (which have, in any case, focused on mental illness) as individualist, and fundamentally opposed to medicine and psychiatry, are inaccurate. In fact, MIND sought a comprehensive community-based service, integrated with the general health and welfare services and oriented around a reconstruction of learning disabled people’s citizenship rights.

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Podcast series about the history of psychiatry

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Professor Rab Houston has a podcast series about the history of psychiatry that could be of interest to H-Madness readers. The last podcast of the first series is on Tuesday 16 May 2017 and can be found here.  The first series will be available to download or listen to for at least the next three years. Those who have used the podcast can give feedback via email, social media or the questionnaire on the website.

There is a follow-up series about the experience of madness that will begin on 23 May 2017. It is called ‘The Voice of the Mad’ and explores in 25 weekly podcasts the experience of sufferers and those close to them, through personal accounts. Those accounts will be available as text online and there will be a recording of ‘the voice’, done by a member of Mermaids, the University of St Andrews’ amateur dramatic society. Rab Houston will explain the meaning and importance of each account.

More information about the podcast can be found here.





New issue – Social History of Medicine


The newest issue of Social History of Medicine includes at least two articles that may be of interest to H-madness readers.

Jade Shepherd, “‘I am not very well I feel nearly mad when I think of you”: Male Jealousy, Murder and Broadmoor in Late-Victorian Britain’. The abstract reads:

This article compares the representations of jealousy in popular culture, medical and legal literature, and in the trials and diagnoses of men who murdered or attempted to murder their wives or sweethearts before being found insane and committed into Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum between 1864 and 1900. It is shown that jealousy was entrenched in Victorian culture, but marginalised in medical and legal discourse and in the courtroom until the end of the period, and was seemingly cast aside at Broadmoor. As well as providing a detailed examination of varied representations of male jealousy in late-Victorian Britain, the article contributes to understandings of the emotional lives of the working-class, and the causes and representations of working-class male madness.

Julie M. Powell, ‘Shock Troupe: Medical Film and the Performance of ‘Shell Shock’ for the British Nation at War‘. The abstract reads:

In 1917, physician Arthur F. Hurst began filming the peculiar tics and hysterical gaits of ‘shell-shocked’ soldiers under his care. Editions of Hurst’s films from 1918 and 1940 survive. Cultural products of their time, I argue, the films engaged with contemporary ideas of class, gender and nation. The 1918 version reinforced class-based notions of disease and degeneracy while validating personal and national trauma and bolstering conceptions of masculinity and the nation that were critical to wartime morale and recovery efforts. The 1940 re-edit of the film engaged with the memory of the First World War by constructing a restorative narrative and by erasing the troubled years of gender crisis, ‘shell shock’ culture and class struggle to reassert masculine virtue and martial strength, essential for the prosecution of the Second World War.

This information was retrieved from the blog Advances in the history of psychology.

New Book – A History of Self-Harm in Britain by Chris Millard

Screenshot from 2015-12-02 20-41-34Chris Millard , historian at Queen Mary (London), has just published his PhD dedicated to the history of ‘attempted suicide as a cry for help’ in twentieth-century British psychiatry. The blurb reads

This book (…) is the first account of self-harming behaviour in its proper historical and political context. The rise of self-cutting and overdosing in the 20th century is linked to the sweeping changes in mental and physical health, and wider political context. The welfare state, social work, Second World War, closure of the asylums, even the legalization of suicide, are all implicated in the prominence of self harm in Britain. The rise of ‘overdosing as a cry for help’ is linked to the integration of mental and physical healthcare, the NHS, and the change in the law on suicide and attempted suicide. The shift from overdosing to self-cutting as the most prominent ‘self-damaging’ behaviour is also explained, linked to changes in hospital organization and the wider rise of neoliberal politics. Appreciation of history and politics is vital to understanding the psychological concerns over these self-harming behaviours.

Interestingly, the book is open access under a CC BY license. And here is the link to the full book.

Book announcement – Gender and Class in English Asylums, 1890-1914

image-service.aspLouise Hide, a Honorary Research Fellow at Birkbeck, just publishes a book on gender and class in British asylums. The blurb reads:

The Victorian period saw an unprecedented rise in the number of people who were committed to ‘lunatic asylums’. We know something of why this happened, but far less about what life was like inside these institutions. Louise Hide explores the influence of wider socio-economic change and new medical theories on the practices and processes, routines and rhythms of the asylum as it began its transition to the mental hospital. What made the patient admission process so traumatic? How did attendants respond to the arrival of female nurses on male wards? Why were so many doctors on the verge of a breakdown themselves? In this meticulously researched and intriguing work, Hide has opened a chink through which to glimpse the lives of patients, doctors and nursing staff inside two vast London county asylums during the turn of the twentieth century.

Psychiatry and the History of Riots

In the wake of the recents riots in England, social scientists and journalists have been quite prominent in offering their explanations for the looting and destruction.  Social psychologists and sociologists have, by and large, dominated the more scholarly discussions.  So it is interesting to recall that, as Hans Joachim Schneider pointed out in a 1992 article, two other sets of theories about riots have historically drawn their inspiration from clinical psychology and psychiatry:

2. According to the psychoanalytic social contagion theory, participants in riots are carried away by their subconscious, by their feelings, affects, or instincts.

3. Following the psychopathological convergence theory, individuals who share similar characteristics or abnormal traits, predispositions, or attitudes, or else members of social fringe groups gather in the riot situation.

Schneider cites no studies in this context, but it might be interesting to trace the history of these lines of argument emphasizing psychopathology, ones which now seem to be largely out of favor.  One might mention, for instance, Charles Mackay’s popular Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions, first published in 1841.  Perhaps readers can suggest other primary and secondary works in this area?

Hugh Freeman, 1930-2011

HUGH FREEMAN, 1930-2011

Obituaries have just been published of the psychiatrist and historian, Hugh Freeman, who died on the 4th May at the age of 81.

Freeman will probably be best known to list members as one of the founders of the journal, History of Psychiatry and the editor of a number of essay collections on the history of psychiatry in Britain.  These include the two volume, 150 Years of British Psychiatry (London: Gaskell/Athlone, 1991 and 1996) edited with German Berrios;  A Century of Psychiatry, (London: Mosby-Wolfe, 1999),  and Psychiatric Cultures Compared: Psychiatry and Mental Health Care in the Twentieth Century (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2005) edited with Marijke Gijswijt-Hofstra, Harry Oosterhuis and Joost Vijselaar.

After retiring as consultant psychiatrist to Salford Health Authority, Freeman was engaged in large scale history of psychiatric policy in post war Britain under the supervision of John Pickstone.  Parts of this work have been published including:

‘Mental Health: Policy and Practice in the NHS’, Journal of Mental Health 7.3 (1998): 225-39.

‘Mental Health Services in an English County Borough before 1974’, Medical History 28 (1984): 111-28.

The Times obituary was published on the 16 June but is only available to subscribers.  The Guardian obituary is open access here.

Dr Rhodri Hayward

School of History

Queen Mary, University of London


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