“The Psychologist” Opens History Columns

Feb issue of The PsychologistJon Sutton, editor of the flagship journal of the British Psychological Society, The Psychologist, has kindly allowed open electronic access to the first two installments of the “Looking Back” column. As you may recall from two earlier AHP posts (here and here), “Looking Back” is a new column about the history of psychology, edited by Julie Perks, that began appearing in the monthly journal in January of this year.

The first column, authored by Elizabeth Valentine, was about a promising psychology student of Charles Spearman in the 1910s named Nellie Carey. Carey mysteriously “disappeared” from the historical record, but Valentine discovered that had had an affair with a fellow graduate student who had, in turn, been shot by his jealous wife. The full article has just been made freely available on-line by The Psychologist.

The most recent column, by Julie Perks, is about a “practical psychology” magazine from the middle of the 20th century that was also called The Psychologist. Practical psychology was an “amalgamation of beliefs incorporating spiritualism, Freudian psychology and Coué’s system of ‘autosuggestion’.” Perks describes, in particular, a 1948 column by one Dr. R. Macdonald Ladell in which it was suggested that “the act of reading The Psychologist should be similar to that of listening to a sermon, and he warned the reader of the many ways in which they might unconsciously resist the beneficial changes that can be gained from reading The Psychologist.”

Launched in 1933, this earlier publication seems to have relied on a number of Freudians to write many of its articles. It tone, Perks writes, was “self-consciously optimistic.” For instance, in the late 1930s, as the world prepared for war, it breezily dismissed such notions, advising one worried letter writer in 1939 to “pull yourself together. Trust providence, learn to relax, practise cheerfulness.” The older magazine seems to have lasted into the 1970s. The BPS newsletter, begun in 1948, did not change its name to The Psychologist until 1988. Perks’s full column is available on-line.

The Psychologist‘s current editor, Jon Sutton, is not certain whether future editions of the”Looking Back” article will be made freely available. Electronic access to the journal is available only to members of the BPS. Individuals can subscribe to the hardcopy at The Psychologist‘s website. The cost is £70 annually (about $140 CAN/US).

About Christopher Green

Professor of Psychology at York University (Toronto). Former editor of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences. Creator of the "Classics in the History of Psychology" website and of the "This Week in the History of Psychology" podcast series.