This post is written by Michael Pettit, York University and is part of a special series of bibliographies on topics in the history of psychology.
Making (and reading) these kinds of lists is fun but always tricky. The problem is not so much what to include but exclude. The following gives you a snapshot of how I conceive of the “greatest hits” in the history of psychology (rather broadly construed) over the past fifty years. The list consists entirely of books: this reflects my graduate training if not necessarily my current reading habits. Most authors get only one book. The thought of Michel Foucault definitely has shaped this historiography profoundly, but the response among historians has been quite nuanced and sophisticated. This list of books includes work by historians, sociologists, philosophers, anthropologists, alongside psychologists, demonstrating how interdisciplinary the field has become. An important question to contemplate at the current moment is whether there are new, untapped historiographic directions offered by this tradition or whether we require a new starting point for debate?
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Foucault, M. (1966/1970). The Order of Things. New York: Vintage.
Ellenberger, H. (1970). The discovery of the unconsciousness. New York: Basic Books.
Foucault, M. (1978). The history of sexuality: An introduction. New York: Vintage.
Young, R. M. (1985). Darwin’s metaphor: Nature’s place in Victorian culture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Digby, A. (1985). Madness, morality and medicine: A study of the York Retreat, 1796-1914. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
O’Donnell, J. M. (1985). The origins of behaviorism: American psychology, 1870-1920. New York: New York University Press.
Smith, L. D. (1986). Behaviorism and logical positivism: A reassessment of the alliance. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Richards, R. J. (1987). Darwin and the emergence of evolutionary theories of mind and behavior. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Sokal, M. M. (Ed.). (1987). Psychological testing and American society, 1890-1930. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.
Morawski, J. G. (Ed.) (1988). The rise of experimentation in American psychology. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Taylor, C. (1989). Sources of the self: The making of the modern identity. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Haraway, D. J. (1989). Primate visions: Gender, race, and nature in the world of modern science. New York and London: Routledge.
Danziger, K. (1990). Constructing the subject: Historical origins of psychological research. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press.
Crary, J. (1990). Techniques of the observer: On vision and modernity in the nineteenth century. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
Clarke, A. and Fujimora, J. (Eds.). (1992). The right tools for the job: At work in twentieth-century life sciences. Princeton: Prince University Press.
Lunbeck, E. (1994). The psychiatric persuasion: Knowledge, gender, and power in modern America. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Herman, E. (1995). The romance of American psychology: Political culture in the age of experts. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Hacking, I. (1995). Rewriting the soul: Multiple personality and the sciences of memory. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Cherry, F. (1995). The ‘stubborn particulars’ of social psychology: Essays on the research process. London and New York: Routledge.
Porter, T. M. (1995). Trust in numbers: The pursuit of objectivity in science and public life. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Edwards, P. N. (1996) The closed world: Computers and the politics of discourse in Cold War America. Cambridge: MIT Press.
Rose, N. (1996). Inventing our selves: psychology, power, and personhood. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press.
Smith, R. (1997). The Norton history of the human sciences. New York: Norton.
Danziger, K. (1997). Naming the mind: How psychology found its language. London: Sage.
Winter, A. (1998). Mesmerized: Powers of mind in Victorian Britain. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Gieryn, T. F. (1999). Cultural boundaries of science: Credibility on the line. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Capshew, J. (1999). Psychologists on the march: Science, practice, and professional identity in America, 1929-1969. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press.
Weidman, N. (1999). Constructing scientific psychology: Karl Lashley’s mind-brain debates. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Kusch, M. (1999). Psychological Knowledge: A social history and philosophy. New York: Routledge.
Marinelli, L. and Mayer, A. (2002/2003). Dreaming by the Book: Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams and the History of the Psychoanalytic Movement. New York: Other Press.
Dumit, J. (2004). Picturing personhood: Brain scans and biomedical identity. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Serlin, D. (2004). Replaceable you: Engineering the body in postwar America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Goldstein, J. (2005). The post-revolutionary self: Politics and psyche in France, 1750-1850. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Lemov, R. (2005). The world as laboratory: Experiments with mice, mazes, and men. New York: Hill and Wang.
Carson, J. (2007). The measure of merit: Talents, intelligence, and inequality in the French and American republics, 1750-1940. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Igo, S. E. (2007). The averaged American: Surveys, citizens, and the making of a mass public. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Daston, L. and Galison, P. (2007). Objectivity. New York: Zone.
Harrington, A. (2008). The cure within: A history of mind-body medicine. New York: Norton.
Rasmussen, N. (2008). On speed: The many lives of amphetamine. New York: NYU Press.
Tone, A. (2009). The age of anxiety: A history of America’s turbulent affair with tranquilizers. New York: Basic Books.