Tag Archives: World War Two

Seminar Series @ Oxford History of Medicine Wellcome Unit

The Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine‘s current series of seminars is on “Medicine & Modern Warfare.” Two talks may be of particular interest to the AHP community:

April 27:                                                                                                                                                                  ‘Culture, politics or biology? How does American PTSD relate to European war trauma?’        Speaker: Ben Shephard, Bristol.

June 8:                                                                                                                                                                            ‘“It would frighten you to see the people sent to this place”: Why did the emotional and nervous states of women factory workers provoke such concern in Britain in the Second World War?’                                                                                                                                                               Speaker: Hazel Croft, University of London

Find the full lineup of dates here.

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25 Years of History of Psychiatry & A New Issue

The journal History of Psychiatry is celebrating its 25th anniversary. A special issue marking the occasion has just been released. Among the articles in the issue are ones addressing the history of nostalgia, the treatment of shell shock at the Maudsley Hospital, masculinity in Victorian asylums in New Zealand and Australian, the distinction between passion and emotion, and much more. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

Editorial: “The first 25 years of History of Psychiatry,” by German E Berrios.

“Some reflections on madness and culture in the post-war world,” by Andrew Scull. The abstract reads,

This article examines the treatment of madness as a theme in drama, opera and films, concentrating its attention for the most part on the period between World War II and the 1980s. These were the years in which psychoanalysis dominated psychiatry in the USA, and so Freud’s influence in the broader culture forms the central though not the sole focus of the analysis.

“Nostalgia: A conceptual history,” by Filiberto Fuentenebro de Diego and Carmen Valiente Ots. The abstract reads, Continue reading 25 Years of History of Psychiatry & A New Issue

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APA Monitor: The Psychology of Hunger

The October 2013 issue of the American Psychological Association‘s Monitor on Psychology is now online. This month’s Time Capsule section features an article by David Baker and Natacha Keramidas on the Minnesota Starvation Experiment: “The Psychology of Hunger.”

In the 1940s, at the height of World War Two, researchers at the University of Minnesota recruited 36 young men to participate in a nearly year long study of the physical and psychological effects of starvation. Over the course of the study the men were charged with losing 25 percent of their normal body weight. The hope was that the findings of such research could be used in war related relief efforts. Needless to say, participation in this study was difficult. As Baker and Keramidas describe,

 

During the semi-starvation phase the changes were dramatic. Beyond the gaunt appearance of the men, there were significant decreases in their strength and stamina, body temperature, heart rate and sex drive. The psychological effects were significant as well. Hunger made the men obsessed with food. They would dream and fantasize about food, read and talk about food and savor the two meals a day they were given. They reported fatigue, irritability, depression and apathy. Interestingly, the men also reported decreases in mental ability, although mental testing of the men did not support this belief.

For some men, the study proved too difficult. Data from three subjects were excluded as a result of their breaking the diet and a fourth was excluded for not meeting expected weight loss goals.

The men and the study became subjects of national interest, even appearing in Life magazine in 1945. But in some ways, world events overtook the study. The war in Europe ended on May 8, 1945, barely halfway through the starvation phase of the experiment. Keys and the men worried that the data they had sacrificed for would not get to relief workers and the starving people they wished to serve in time to help them. Relief efforts were underway and there was no clear guide for rehabilitating those who were starving.

The article can be read in full here.

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David Boder’s Interviews w/ Holocaust Survivors

In the mid-1940s, in the aftermath of World War II, psychologist David Boder (left) undertook a series of interviews with survivors of the Holocaust, a project that ultimately resulted in over 90 hours of audio recordings. Boder himself published exerts from these interviews, alongside his analysis, in the 1949 book I Did Not Interview the Dead.

Boder’s work is now the basis of a digital archive, Voices of the Holocaust. The project aims “to provide a permanent digital archive of digitized, restored, transcribed, and translated interviews with Holocaust survivors conducted by Dr. David P. Boder in 1946, so that they can be experienced by a global audience of students, researchers, historians, and the general public.” To this end both audio and transcriptions of his interviews can be found on the site.

The Voices of the Holocaust website also features a biography of Boder, which includes discussion of how he came to undertake this project and what the interviews themselves involved. As the site describes,

Arriving in Paris in late July, Boder would spend the next two months interviewing 130 displaced persons in nine languages and recording them on a state-of-the-art wire recorder. The interviews were among the earliest (if not the earliest) audio recordings of Holocaust survivors. They are today the earliest extant recordings, valuable not only for the testimonies of survivors and other DPs, but also for the song sessions and religious services that Boder recorded at various points during the expedition.

…. Boder left Europe in early October, having recorded over ninety hours of material and completely used up the two hundred spools of wire that he had brought with him.

Most of the interviews were conducted with Eastern European Jews, and of these the majority were from Poland. Yet Boder was keen on speaking to many different kinds of groups: Western European Jews (including six Greek Jews that did not fit neatly in either category) number close to twenty. His interviewees thus covered the extreme ends of the spectrum of modern Jewish experience, from passionately Torah-observant Jews who hailed from great yeshiva centers in Lithuania, to assimilated German Jews married to non-Jewish spouses. Most, however, fell somewhere in between. When it came to war time experience, the greater part—whether Eastern or Western, Hungarian or Greek—had ended up in labor or concentration camps. The terrible rigors were what Boder believed his American audience needed an education about: “We know very little in America about the things that happened to you people who were in concentration camps,” was how Boder would orient his narrator to the task and purpose of the interview. But such a mandate did not stop Boder from interviewing over twenty Jews who had not been in the camps. Their stories—of enduring the privation of ghettos, of hiding in woods or on farms, of fleeing to or fighting for Russia—presumably qualified as the “not unusual stories” that Boder said he was seeking and could similarly perform the task of educating an audience across the ocean.

Tip ‘o the hat to the Center for the History of Psychology’s Facebook page for bringing this resource to our attention. Included in the Center’s collections is the Peirce Wire Recorder Boder used in his interviews.

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Special Issue: History of Psychosocial Stress

Interested in the history of stress? If so, you will want to check out a just released special issue on the topic. The December 2012 issue of History of the Human Sciences is guest edited by Rhodri Hayward and dedicated to the subject of “Inventing the Psychosocial: Stress and Social Psychiatry.” Articles in this issue examine a diverse array of subjects including: the work of Hans Selye, somatic disorders during World War Two, the development of psychosocial medicine in Britain, the rat and stress, and much more. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“The invention of the psychosocial: An introduction,” by Rhodri Hayward. The abstract reads,

Although the compound adjective ‘psychosocial’ was first used by academic psychologists in the 1890s, it was only in the interwar period that psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers began to develop detailed models of the psychosocial domain. These models marked a significant departure from earlier ideas of the relationship between society and human nature. Whereas Freudians and Darwinians had described an antagonistic relationship between biological instincts and social forces, interwar authors insisted that individual personality was made possible through collective organization. This argument was advanced by dissenting psychoanalysts such as Ian Suttie and Karen Horney; biologists including Julian Huxley and Hans Selye; philosophers (e.g. Olaf Stapledon), anthropologists (e.g. Margaret Mead) and physicians (e.g John Ryle and James Halliday).

This introduction and the essays that follow sketch out the emergence of the psycho-social by examining the methods, tools and concepts through which it was articulated. New statistical technologies and physiological theories allowed individual pathology to be read as an index of broader social problems and placed medical expertise at the centre of new political programmes. In these arguments the intangible structure of social relationships was made visible and provided a template for the development of healthy and effective forms of social organization. By examining the range of techniques deployed in the construction of the psychosocial (from surveys of civilian neurosis, techniques of family observation through to animal models of psychotic breakdown) a critical genealogy of the biopolitical basis of modern society is developed.

“The pursuit of happiness: The social and scientific origins of Hans Selye’s natural philosophy of life,” by Mark Jackson. The abstract reads,

In 1956, Hans Selye tentatively suggested that the scientific study of stress could ‘help us to formulate a precise program of conduct’ and ‘teach us the wisdom to live a rich and meaningful life’. Continue reading Special Issue: History of Psychosocial Stress

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John Huston’s 1946 Film Let There Be Light

The wonderful blog Mind Hacks has just brought to our attention John Huston’s 1946 film, Let There Be Light. The third of three propaganda films Huston was commission to make for the United States Army, Let There Be Light features World War II era soldiers experiencing neuropsychiatric illness as the result of the trauma of war.

Initially banned by the US government, the film made its debut at the 1981 Cannes Film Festival. Now the film – which showcases the experiences of these soldiers, their often harsh treatment at the hands of medical professionals, and the soldiers distaste for the military post-war – is available in full online, both on YouTube (above) and as a downloadable file on Internet Archive.

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The World War II Era Red Wing Studies

A recent piece in Amherst College’s Amherst Magazine looks at the work of psychologist John P. Anderson (right) and colleagues during World War II. In the so-called Red Wing Studies, Anderson, along with Herman Kabat and Ralph Rossen, set out to investigate why Air Force pilots were passing out in flight during high speed maneuvers. Suspecting that the cause was impaired cerebral blood flow, the men tested their hypothesis by employing leather collars that inflated around the subject’s neck (seen on Anderson, right). This procedure was tested first on animal subjects and then on the researchers themselves before it was applied to other human subjects.

The use of this inflatable collar allowed Anderson, Kabat, and Rossen to observe the body’s response to a lack of oxygen to the brain. As the article describes,

The most common symptoms included unconsciousness, dilated pupils, seizure-like movements and loss of bladder and bowel control.

If the experiments themselves are troubling, the choice of test subjects is even more so. The Red Wing Studies of 1943 were conducted on schizophrenic patients and prison inmates, some of whom were in the juvenile court system. Researchers have long debated whether these subjects—who volunteered for the testing, according to records—had the intellectual capacity to truly give what today’s scientists call “informed consent.” ….

At the same time, the Red Wing findings advanced scientific knowledge, laying the groundwork for significant studies on brain physiology and function. They led to the development of the human centrifuge, which is used in the training of pilots and astronauts, and the G suit, a special garment, worn by high-speed aircraft crews, that can be pressurized to prevent blackout during certain maneuvers.

The work on which this article is based has also appeared in the journal Perspectives in Biology and Medicine as “Experimental Arrest of Cerebral Blood Flow in Human Subjects: The Red Wing Studies Revisited,” by Brian A. Smith, Ellen Wright Clayton, and  David Robertson. The abstract reads,

Loss of consciousness in pilots during rapid ascent after bombing missions was a major problem in World War II, and experiments were undertaken to study the cause of this phenomenon. Postulating impaired cerebral blood flow as a likely mechanism, the investigators developed a neck device, the KRA Cuff, which when inflated could shut off blood supply to the brain. With cessation of blood flow for up to 100 seconds, the investigators observed a sequence of responses, including unconsciousness, followed by dilated pupils, tonic/clonic movements, loss of bladder and eventually bowel control, and appearance of pathological reflexes. This study, carried out in prisoners and patients with schizophrenia in 1941–42, largely disappeared from public discourse for a number of years. It has received occasional attention subsequently and been considered controversial. Recently discovered records, including extensive written and photographic data from the studies, shed new light on the methods and motives of the research team. We describe here this new information and its implications for the scientific and ethical assessment of the study.

Read the full Amherst Magazine article, Medical Sleuthing, online here.

via the Society for the History of Psychology (Division 26 of the American Psychological Association) listserve.

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New Issue: History of Psychiatry

The March 2011 issue of History of Psychiatry has just been released online. Included in this issue is an article on the mental health field in the United States post-WWII by Andrew Scull (left), as well as articles on the development of psychiatry in Latvia, the role of patient dress in a nineteenth century English lunatic asylum, and the influence of findings in pediatric medicine on John Bowlby’s development of the concept of ‘maternal deprivation’. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“The mental health sector and the social sciences in post-World War II USA. Part 1: Total war and its aftermath,” by Andrew Scull. The abstract reads,

This paper examines the impact of World War II and its aftermath on the mental health sector, and traces the resulting transformations in US psychiatry and psychology. Focusing on the years between 1940 and 1970, it analyses the growing federal role in funding training and research in the mental health sector, the dominance of psychoanalysis within psychiatry in these years, and the parallel changes that occurred in both academic and clinical psychology.

“From social pathologies to individual psyches: Psychiatry navigating socio-political currents in 20th-century Latvia,” by Agita Lûse. The abstract reads,

The paper explores psychiatry’s responses to the twentieth-century socio-political currents in Latvia by focusing on social objectives, clinical ideologies, and institutional contexts of Soviet mental health care. The tradition of German biological psychiatry in which Baltic psychiatrists had been trained blended well with the materialistic monism of Soviet psychoneurology. Continue reading New Issue: History of Psychiatry

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HoP in Social History of Medicine

The April 2010 issue of Social History of Medicine contains a number of articles on topics related to the history of psychology and the history of psychiatry. These include pieces on insanity and the right to marry in nineteenth century England, concerns surrounding mentally unfit soldiers during World War Two, and the importance of an individual’s capacity to work to psychosurgery practices in the early twentieth century. A further article explores the psychiatric classifications of criminals in New York State in the first half of the twentieth century (by Stephen Garton, right). Titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“Capacity to Marry: Law, Medicine and Conceptions of Insanity,” by Ezra Hasson. Continue reading HoP in Social History of Medicine

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