The May 2015 issue of Social History of Medicine is now online. The issue includes a number of items that may be of interest to AHP readers, including an article on Irish patients in the Victorian Lancashire asylum system and one on the importance of black celebrity activism in making the mental health of black youth a civil rights issue. The issue also includes a special section, “Focus on Learning from Pain,” where a number of recent volumes on the history of pain are reviewed. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.
“‘A Burden on the County’: Madness, Institutions of Confinement and the Irish Patient in Victorian Lancashire,” by Catherine Cox and Hilary Marland. The abstract reads,
This article explores the responses of the Poor Law authorities, asylum superintendents and Lunacy Commissioners to the huge influx of Irish patients into the Lancashire public asylum system, a system facing intense pressure in terms of numbers and costs, in the latter half of the nineteenth century. In particular, it examines the ways in which patients were passed, bartered and exchanged between two sets of institution—workhouses and asylums. In the mid-nineteenth century removal to asylums was advocated for all cases of mental disorder by asylum medical superintendents and the Lunacy Commissioners; by its end, asylum doctors were resisting the attempts of Poor Law officials to ‘dump’ increasing numbers of chronic cases into their wards. The article situates the Irish patient at the centre of tussles between those with a stake in lunacy provision as a group recognised as numerous, disruptive and isolated.
“Black Celebrities, Selfhood, and Psychiatry in the Civil Rights Era: The Wiltwyck School for Boys and the Floyd Patterson House,” by Dennis A. Doyle. The abstract reads,
This paper contends that a color-blind psychologisation of black interiority constituted one way in which activists imagined African Americans as both fully human and deserving of equal citizenship during the long civil rights era. Between 1954 and 1964, the Wiltwyck School for Boys, a reform school with a predominantly black student body in Esopus, New York, expanded their therapeutic services into Manhattan, creating one of the US’s first psychiatric aftercare programmes. Singer Harry Belafonte and boxing champion Floyd Patterson, two black culture heroes linked to the civil rights movement, lent their support as the Wiltwyck Board of Directors sought the funds needed to build a halfway home named in Patterson’s honor. The public support of these black celebrity-activists helped create the impression that the mental health of black children was a matter of civil rights import, underscoring the black psyche as both the very source of equality between the races and as a site where racial progress could be measured.
Focus on Learning from Pain
Review of Joanna Bourke, The Story of Pain: From Prayer to Painkillers by Rob Boddice. Extract: Continue reading Social History of Medicine May Issue