Tag Archives: asylums

New Article Roundup: Big Data on Asylums, Stratification Theory, Pop Psych, & More!

A quick roundup of new articles for your summer reading pleasure:

Behavioral Scientist
Psychologists Go to War,” by John Greenwood. No abstract. Discusses psychologists’ involvement in WWI and the broader effects of this work.

All the (Pseudo)Science That’s Fit to Print,” by Evan Nesterak. No abstract. Discusses the popular psychology magazine collection held at the Cummings Center for the History of Psychology.

History of Psychology
Buried Layers: On the Origins, Rise, and Fall of Stratification Theories,” by Martin Wieser. Abstract:

This article presents a historical analysis of the origins, rise, and demise of theories of stratification (Schichtentheorien). Following their roots in the ancient metaphysical idea of the “great chain of being,” Aristotle’s scala naturae, the medieval “Jacob’s ladder,” and Leibniz’s concept of the lex continua, I argue that theories of stratification represent the modern heir to the ancient cosmological idea of a harmonious, hierarchical, and unified universe. Theories of stratification reached their heyday during the interwar period within German academia, proliferating over a vast number of disciplines and rising to special prominence within personality psychology, feeding the hope for a unitary image of the world and of human beings, their biological and mental development, their social organization and cultural creations. This article focuses on the role of visuality as a distinct mode of scientific knowledge within theories of stratification as well as the cultural context that provided the fertile ground for their flowering in the Weimar Republic. Finally, the rapid demise of theories of stratification during the 1950s is discussed, and some reasons for their downfall during the second half of the 20th century are explored.

Medical History
Lives in the Asylum Record, 1864 to 1910: Utilising Large Data Collection for Histories of Psychiatry and Mental Health,” by Angela McCarthy, Catharine Coleborne, Maree O’Connor, and Elspeth Knewstubb. Abstract: Continue reading New Article Roundup: Big Data on Asylums, Stratification Theory, Pop Psych, & More!

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New History of Psychiatry: Religious Mania, Criminal Insanity, & More

The June 2017 issue of History of Psychiatry is now online. Articles in this issue explore the relationship between religion and madness, criminal insanity, paralysis of the insanity, female sexuality and syphilis, and more. Full details below.

“From a religious view of madness to religious mania: The Encyclopédie, Pinel, Esquirol,” by Philippe Huneman. Abstract:

This paper focuses on the shift from a concept of insanity understood in terms of religion to another (as entertained by early psychiatry, especially in France) according to which it is believed that forms of madness tinged by religion are difficult to cure. The traditional religious view of madness, as exemplified by Pascal (inter alia), is first illustrated by entries from the Encyclopédie. Then the shift towards a medical view of madness, inspired by Vitalistic physiology, is mapped by entries taken from the same publication. Firmed up by Pinel, this shift caused the abandonment of the religious view. Esquirol considered religious mania to be a vestige from the past, but he also believed that mental conditions carrying a religious component were difficult to cure.

“‘Shrouded in a dark fog’: Comparison of the diagnosis of pellagra in Venice and general paralysis of the insane in the United Kingdom, 1840–1900,” by Egidio Priani. Abstract: Continue reading New History of Psychiatry: Religious Mania, Criminal Insanity, & More

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New Articles: Jealousy, Madness, and Murder & Shell Shock on Film

The May 2017 issue of Social History of Medicine includes two articles that may be of interest to AHP readers. The first piece explores cases of jealousy, madness, and murder in the context of admissions to the Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum; the second describes how two editions of shell shock films differently incorporated notions about class, gender and nation. Titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

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

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.

“Shock Troupe: Medical Film and the Performance of ‘Shell Shock’ for the British Nation at War,” by Julie M. Powell. Abstract: Continue reading New Articles: Jealousy, Madness, and Murder & Shell Shock on Film

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HHS Special Issue: Psychotherapy in Historical Perspective

Sarah Marks

The April 2017 issue of History of the Human Sciences is now online. Guest edited by Sarah Marks, this special issue explores “Psychotherapy in Historical Perspective.” Titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“Psychotherapy in historical perspective,” by Sarah Marks. Abstract:

This article will briefly explore some of the ways in which the past has been used as a means to talk about psychotherapy as a practice and as a profession, its impact on individuals and society, and the ethical debates at stake. It will show how, despite the multiple and competing claims about psychotherapy’s history and its meanings, historians themselves have, to a large degree, not attended to the intellectual and cultural development of many therapeutic approaches. This absence has the potential consequence of implying that therapies have emerged as value-free techniques, outside of a social, economic and political context. The relative neglect of psychotherapy, by contrast with the attention historians have paid to other professions, particularly psychiatry, has also underplayed its societal impact. This article will foreground some of the instances where psychotherapy has become an object of emerging historical interest, including the new research that forms the substance of this special issue of History of the Human Sciences.

“The action of the imagination: Daniel Hack Tuke and late Victorian psycho-therapeutics,” by Sarah Chaney. Abstract:

Histories of dynamic psychotherapy in the late 19th century have focused on practitioners in continental Europe, and interest in psychological therapies within British asylum psychiatry has been largely overlooked. Yet Daniel Hack Tuke (1827–95) is acknowledged as one of the earliest authors to use the term ‘psycho-therapeutics’, including a chapter on the topic in his 1872 volume, Illustrations of the Influence of the Mind upon the Body in Health and Disease. But what did Tuke mean by this concept, and what impact did his ideas have on the practice of asylum psychiatry? At present, there is little consensus on this topic. Through in-depth examination of what psycho-therapeutics meant to Tuke, this article argues that late-19th-century asylum psychiatry cannot be easily separated into somatic and psychological strands. Tuke’s understanding of psycho-therapeutics was extremely broad, encompassing the entire field of medical practice (not only psychiatry). The universal force that he adopted to explain psychological therapies, ‘the Imagination’, was purported to show the power of the mind over the body, implying that techniques like hypnotism and suggestion might have an effect on any kind of symptom or illness. Acknowledging this aspect of Tuke’s work, I conclude, can help us better understand late-19th-century psychiatry – and medicine more generally – by acknowledging the lack of distinction between psychological and somatic in ‘psychological’ therapies.

“‘Subordination, authority, psychotherapy’: Psychotherapy and politics in inter-war Vienna,” by David Freis. Abstract: Continue reading HHS Special Issue: Psychotherapy in Historical Perspective

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Special Issue History of Psychiatry: Histories of Asylums, Insanity and Psychiatry in Scotland

The March 2017 issue of History of Psychiatry is now online. Guest edited by Chris Philo and Jonathan Andrews, this special issue explores “Histories of asylums, insanity and psychiatry in Scotland.” Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“Introduction: histories of asylums, insanity and psychiatry in Scotland,” by Chris Philo and Jonathan Andrews. The abstract reads,

This paper introduces a special issue on ‘Histories of asylums, insanity and psychiatry in Scotland’, situating the papers that follow in an outline historiography of work in this field. Using Allan Beveridge’s claims in 1993 about the relative lack of research on the history of psychiatry in Scotland, the paper reviews a range of contributions that have emerged since then, loosely distinguishing between ‘overviews’ – work addressing longer-term trends and broader periods and systems – and more detailed studies of particular ‘individuals and institutions’. There remains much still to do, but the present special issue signals what is currently being achieved, not least by a new generation of scholars in and on Scotland.

“A ‘Scottish Poor Law of Lunacy’? Poor Law, Lunacy Law and Scotland’s parochial asylums,” by Lauren Farquharson. The abstract reads,

Scotland’s parochial asylums are unfamiliar institutional spaces. Representing the concrete manifestation of the collision between two spheres of legislation, the Poor Law and the Lunacy Law, six such asylums were constructed in the latter half of the nineteenth century. These sites expressed the enduring mandate of the Scottish Poor Law 1845 over the domain of ‘madness’. They were institutions whose very existence was fashioned at the directive of the local arm of the Poor Law, the parochial board, and they constituted a continuing ‘Scottish Poor Law of Lunacy’. Their origins and operation significantly subverted the intentions and objectives of the Lunacy Act 1857, the aim of which had been to institute a public district asylum network with nationwide coverage.

“Liberty and the individual: The colony asylum in Scotland and England,” by Gillian Allmond. The abstract reads, Continue reading Special Issue History of Psychiatry: Histories of Asylums, Insanity and Psychiatry in Scotland

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Human Subjects & Migration and Madness in Social History of Medicine

The November 2015 issue of Social History of Medicine includes several pieces of interest to AHP readers. Articles in this issue include ones that explore the modern construction of human subjects, madness during voyages to New Zealand during the Victorian and Edwardian eras, and the use of case records of early 20th century Eastern European emigrants as sources. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“Migration and Madness at Sea: The Nineteenth- and Early Twentieth-century Voyage to New Zealand,” by Angela McCarthy.

This article draws on a range of sources—including surgeon superintendents’ reports as well as asylum records—to examine the mental health of migrants and crew on the voyage to New Zealand during the Victorian and Edwardian eras. It examines key themes such as relations between crew and passengers, the emotional dimensions of insanity, attempts to export the insane, and collaboration between doctors and relatives in adhering to mental health legislation in order to repatriate the insane, all of which facilitate assessment of wider debates about medical authority. While surgeon superintendents documented actions rather than causes for unusual behaviour, asylum doctors and family members were more likely to attempt to explain mental disturbance at sea. Additionally, this article examines the beliefs of medical officials who paradoxically argued that the voyage was beneficial, rather than detrimental, to health.

“Making up ‘Vulnerable’ People: Human Subjects and the Subjective Experience of Medical Experiment,” by Nancy D. Campbell and Laura Stark.

This paper explores how ‘the human subject’ was figured historically and expands the interpretive range available to historians for understanding the subjective experiences of people who have served in medical experiments in the past. We compare LSD studies on healthy ‘volunteers’ conducted in two experimental settings in the 1950s: the US National Institutes of Mental Health’s (NIMH) Addiction Research Center (ARC) Lexington, Kentucky and the NIH Clinical Center (NIHCC) in Bethesda, Maryland. Sources consist of oral history interviews, transcripts and archival documents including photographs and records. Political priorities and historical contingencies relevant for crystalising the expert domain of modern bioethics, especially the 1960s US Civil Rights movement, were central for producing the ‘vulnerability’ attributed to the modern figure of the ‘human subject’. Using Ian Hacking’s historical ontology approach, we suggest how this figure of the ‘vulnerable human subject’ affected historical actors’ self-understandings while foreclosing paths of historical inquiry and interpretation.

“‘Insane emigrants’ in transit. Psychiatric Patients’ Files as a Source for the History of Return Migration, c. 1910,” by Gemma Blok. Continue reading Human Subjects & Migration and Madness in Social History of Medicine

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New Issue History of Psychiatry: Schizophrenia Symptoms, British Colonial Asylums, & More

Hans W. Gruhle

The June 2015 issue of History of Psychiatry is now online. The issue includes articles on the symptoms of schizophrenia, British colonial lunatic asylums, and “senile dementia” in the decades before 1979. Also in the issue is a classic text on symptoms in psychiatry by Hans W. Gruhle (right). Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“First rank symptoms of schizophrenia: their nature and origin,” by J. Cutting. The abstract reads,

Kurt Schneider’s insight nearly 80 years ago that schizophrenia could be demarcated from other psychoses by a small set of particular delusions and hallucinations powerfully influenced diagnostic practice. The theoretical status of such ‘first rank symptoms’ as a whole, however, has rarely been addressed. But if they are sensitive and specific to the condition, it is about time that their essential nature and potential origin be considered. This is the purpose of the present paper. I argue that these psychopathological phenomena are indeed relatively sensitive and specific to the condition, that their nature can be formulated within a Schelerian model of what constitutes a human being, and that their origin fits anthropological and neuropsychological notions of the make-up of contemporary human beings.

“‘At variance with the most elementary principles’: the state of British colonial lunatic asylums in 1863,” by Warwick Brunton. The abstract reads, Continue reading New Issue History of Psychiatry: Schizophrenia Symptoms, British Colonial Asylums, & More

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The Psych Files: What Was Life Like in an Asylum?

The most recent episode of the Psych Files features an interview with AHP blogger Jennifer Bazar. In “What Was Life Like in an Asylum?” Bazar describes life in the asylum in the late-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. As described on the Psych Files site,

Ever wondered what it was like to be a patient in an “insane asylum”? “Asylums” changed names over the years (including “State Hospital” and “Psychiatric Center”) and so did the treatment of the mentally ill. Hear from Dr. Jennifer Bazar how we went from chaining people up to hydrotherapy to sexual surgery and finally to what is called “moral treatment“. A fascinating walk down the history of psychology with an engaging psychology historian.

The full podcast can be heard online here.

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Revisiting Erving Goffman’s Asylums and “The Insanity of Place”

A recent article in Symbolic Interaction provides insight into sociologist Erving Goffman’s work on mental illness. As part of a freely available special issue dedicated to Goffman, Dmitri N. Shalin explores the role of Goffman’s personal biography on his work. In addition to a more general piece on this subject, “Interfacing Biography, Theory and History: The Case of Erving Goffman,” Shalin details how Goffman’s Asylums, as well as a briefer piece “The Insanity of Place” were informed by his personal experiences. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“Interfacing Biography, Theory and History: The Case of Erving Goffman,” Dmitri N. Shalin. The abstract reads,

This study aims to show that much of Erving Goffman’s writing is crypto-biographical and that key turns in his intellectual career reflected his life’s trajectory and attempts at self-renewal. The case is made that Goffman’s theoretical corpus reflects his personal experience as a son of Russian–Jewish immigrants who struggled to raise himself from the obscurity of Canadian Manitoba to international stardom. The concluding section describes the Erving Goffman Archives and the contribution that the large database of documents and biographical materials assembled therein can make to biocritical hermeneutics, a research program focused on the relationship between biography, theory, and history.

“Goffman on Mental Illness: Asylums and “The Insanity of Place” Revisited,” Dmitri N. Shalin. The abstract reads,

This case study is designed to demonstrate that sociological imagination can feed on personal experience, that research practice interpolates our biographical circumstances, and that a systematic inquiry into the interplay between our professional and everyday life offers a fruitful avenue for sociological analysis. The discussion focuses on Erving Goffman’s treatment of mental illness. The argument is made that the evolution of Goffman’s constructionist views on mental disorder had been influenced by his family situation and personal experience.

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APA Monitor Time Capsule: Asylum Tourism

The February 2014 issue of the American Psychological Association’s Monitor on Psychology is now online. Included in this month’s Time Capsule section is a piece by Jennifer Bazar and Jeremy Burman on what in retrospect may seem an odd practice: nineteenth century asylum tourism.  As Bazar and Burman describe,

Alongside mentions of monuments, churches and historical sites, a 19th-century tourist in New York might have found this recommendation in his or her guidebook: Visit the Bloomingdale Asylum for the Insane, in the Morningside Heights neighborhood of Manhattan (on the grounds of what is now Columbia University).

“The approach to the Asylum from the southern entrance … is highly pleasing,” reads the 1880 guide “Miller’s New York As It Is.” The author continues, “The sudden opening of the view, the extent of the grounds, the various avenues gracefully winding through so large a lawn. … The central building … is always open to visitors, and the view from the top of it being the most extensive and beautiful of any in the vicinity of the city, is well worthy of their attention” (Miller, 1880, p. 46-47).

Recommending a visit to a mental hospital might seem surprising to modern readers, but this was not unusual at the time. In fact, the “asylum tourism” of the late 1800s was less voyeuristic than its earlier incarnations. The patients — sometimes including the powerless wives of jealous or bored aristocrats — had often been treated like animals, housed in institutions that were little more than human zoos. (It cost only a shilling to see “the beasts” rave at Bedlam, as the Bethlem Royal Hospital in London, England, was then known.)

The full article can be read online here.

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