Posts Tagged ‘ The Netherlands ’

Conference report – Madness in Civilization: Current research into the history of psychiatry in the Low Countries

Madness II

On the second of June 2017 a symposium was held in Amsterdam about madness in civilization. The conference aim was to evaluate the history of madness in the Netherlands, not only focussing on the historiography of this field but also on new and ongoing research. A recap of the symposium can be found here.




Conference – The Body Politics: States in the History of Medicine and Health. Provisional programme online

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The European Association for the History of Medicine and Health organises the conference The Body Politics: States in the History of Medicine and Health, which will be held from the 30th of August until the 2nd of september in Bucharest. The provisional conference programme has appeared online and incorporates a few sessions that could be of interest to H-Madness readers (see below). For a full overview of all the panels see here. 

Thursday, August 31st
11.00‐13.00 PANEL 1 ‐ ETHICS AND EXPERTISE. Chair: Frank Huisman (Main Amphitheatre )
  • State-authorized medical ethics: the disciplinary function of the British General Medical Council, 1858‐1914 (Andreas‐Holger Maehle)
  • ‘“A misconception of educational psychologists’ work”: expertise, child psychology and the aftermath of the 1967 Summerfield Report’ (Andrew Burchell)
  • Medical Ethics in a Modern Society. The ‘free medical profession’ and the Dutch state, 1945‐ 1980 (Noortje Jacobs)
  • State and expertise. The emergence of psychiatry as legal expertise in Europe in the 1820s (Svein Atle Skålevåg)

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New issue – BMGN-Low Countries Historical Review. Blurring Boundaries: Towards a Medical History of the Twentieth Century


The first 2017 issue of BMGN-Low Countries Historical Review (Blurring Boundaries: Towards a Medical History of the Twentieth Century) is out now and includes two articles that may be of interest to h-madness readers.

Benoît Majerus, ‘Material Objects in Twentieth Century History of Psychiatry’. The abstract reads as follows:

Interest in the history of psychiatry in the social sciences manifested itself in the sixties and seventies at a moment when concepts such as marginality and deviance appeared as a thought-provoking path to rewrite the history of Western societies. This history of madness faces a turning point. Material culture, as this paper’s line of argument expounds, allows one to remain faithful to the critical heritage of the sixties and seventies while still opening up the field to alternative questions by integrating new actors and themes hitherto largely ignored. It allows nuanced narratives that take into account the structural imbalances of power while at the same time being attentive to the agencies of all the actors, as well as the failures of the institutional utopias.

Gemma Blok, ”We the Avant-Garde’. A History from Below of Dutch Heroin Use in the 1970s’. The abstract reads as follows:

In the 1970s the Netherlands (like many other western countries) was shocked by a sudden wave of heroin use. The heroin ‘epidemic’ is  currently framed as a public health problem that has been solved in a commendably humane fashion. In the mean time heroin users have gained a ‘loser image’. Using memoirs written by and interviews with former heroin users, this article argues that heroin use was initially linked to cultural rebellion, self-development and social criticism. We need to take this forgotten aspect of the history of the Dutch heroin ‘epidemic’ into account when we try to explain this historical phenomenon.

Het Dolhuys and The Madness & Arts Festival (NL)

The city of Haarlem (NL) is currently hosting the third edition of The Madness & Arts Festival (Sept 24 – October 3rd 2010), a festival that focuses on the interaction between art and madness:

Is there a correlation between madness and arts? How do artists acknowledge madness and how does their work influence the way we think about people with psychological disturbances? For ten days, the festival explores these questions within a comprehensive multidisciplinary programme including theatre, dance, film, music, visual arts, literature and poetry. A public meeting and the educational programme open up “madness” for discussion.

The festival site is located next to Het Dolhuys, the National Museum of Psychiatry, and initiator of the festival. There you can meet the artists, drink a cup of coffee with a psychiatrist, eat apple tart from Het Appeltaartenimperium, make your own Rorschach stain, or listen to a daily talkshow with the festival guests.  The Dolhuys also offers a series of daily activities and creative workshops designed for children and young people.

To see the program of the festival, click here.

Book announcement: Joost Vijselaar – The asylum, single fare or return

Joost Vijselaar, Het gesticht, enkele reis of retour (Amsterdam 2010; Uitgeverij Boom); The asylum, single fare or return

Based on an extensive qualitative analysis of patient records, this book studies in great detail the social patterns of admission, stay, treatment, care, and discharge in three Dutch psychiatric hospitals in the period 1890-1950. In line with other recent research, it demonstrates that families did in fact cope and care for their disturbed relatives, sometimes for extended periods of time and even in cases of serious mental illness. In general, two major factors contributed to the referral of a patient to an institution: first, escalating, disruptive behavior that threatened the patient’s social integration; and second, the weakening of the capacity of the family to cope with and care for the patient. The intensity of treatment in these hospitals was conspicuously low, the emphasis laying on care rather than cure, and on the regulation of disturbing behavior, with internal transfer between wards for the quiet and the (half)disturbed being the most important social tool. Labour and bed rest constituted the backbone of the regime in Dutch asylums during the entire period, covering the functions of cure, care, and the management of unrest. Therapeutic innovations, such as the famous somatic cures (e.g. ECT), did not characterize the regime in a significant way, but were rather adopted in only a quarter of all cases. Patterns of discharge mirrored the process of admission: with a psychiatrist assessing improvement by social criteria (such as the measure of social integration), and families exerting a clear influence on the discharge of their relatives, the probationary discharge being the instrument of choice for doctors to test the adaptive power of both family and (former) patient. Families did exert a significant ‘pull’ on the asylum, benefiting those with a social network in society. In all, the asylum was less high-walled than its general image would have us believe, and its population had a more dynamic character than is often assumed. Admission to an asylum did amount to a ‘return fare’ for a considerable number of patients suffering from manic-depressive or psychotic disorders.

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