New Issue: History of Psychiatry

The December 2010 issue of History of Psychiatry has been published online. The issue contains nine all new articles on topics including, pyromania, war neurosis in the Spanish Civil War, Kanner’s syndrome, as well as an article by Leon Hoffman (right) on the one hundredth anniversary of Freud’s visit to the United States. Article titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“Care of the insane in Lübeck during the 17th and 18th centuries,” by Horst Dilling, Hans Thomsen, and Fritz Hohagen. The abstract reads,

Only selected aspects of the history of the House of the Poor Insane in the Hanseatic Free City of Lübeck have been studied to date. This article presents the results of an entire source study of this small institution in the 17th and 18th centuries, and briefly also during the next 40 years after the opening of a new building. In addition to the minute-book of the Governors, now kept in the Lübeck Municipal Archives, the results are based primarily on the account-books, which illustrate the institution’s social history and activities. Examples are given. During most of the 17th century, the House was generally rather like a prison for the insane, but at the end of this century and in the early 18th there was a reform phase. This was followed by phases of repression and ‘containment’ at the end of the 18th century and in the early 19th century, before a renewed reform by the medical profession. The findings for Lübeck are compared with the development of inpatient care in institutions elsewhere, and the decisive factors in Lübeck are discussed.

“From stack-firing to pyromania: Medico-legal concepts of insane arson in British, US and European contexts, c.1800-1913. Part 2,” by Jonathan Andrews. The abstract reads,

The second part of this paper explores deepening doubts about pyromania as a special insanity, British debates post-1890, and pyromania’s supplanting with the broader diagnostic category of insane incendiarism. It assesses the conceptual importance of revenge and morbid-motivations for arson, and the relationship of Victorian and Edwardian concepts of arson to more modern psychiatric research. The main objective is to ascertain the extent to which Victorian and Edwardian medico-psychologists and medical legists arrived at meaningful and workable definitions of criminal insanity linked to arson. It concludes by emphasizing the limitations, contentiousness and inconsistencies in the use of technical terms such as ‘pyromania’, contrasted with the qualified success of authorities in arriving at more viable and broadly acceptable explanations of insane firesetting.

“Forgotten paths: Culture and ethnicity in Catalan mental health policies (1900-39),” by Josep Comelles.

Between 1900 and 1939 the regional government in Catalonia discussed a complete reform of the psychiatric institutions inherited from the nineteenth century. The debate was centred on the Spanish government’s lack of interest in mental health policies and the growing demand for services. The projects developed between 1900 and 1939 opened a wide-ranging discussion on the role of ethnic and cultural factors in shaping mental illness, and the need to adapt the new facilities to the ethnic features of Catalonia. This study explores the production of Catalan psychiatric discourses and their ideological roots, and the development of public policies up to the end of the Spanish Civil War (1936—39). The paper concludes with a discussion of the influence of pre-war Catalan mental health policies on the wartime practice of psychiatry and, later, on the development of the French psychothérapie institutionnelle after World War II.

“‘War neurosis’ during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39),” by Olga Villasante. The abstract reads,

The aim of this contribution is to analyse the incidence and treatment of war neurosis in Madrid during the Spanish Civil War. First, the scientific papers published on war neurosis during and after the war are examined. Then the work of Gregorio Bermann (1894—1972), a member of the International Brigades who organized the frontline Neuropsychiatric Service at the Hospital de Chamartín de La Rosa (Madrid), is analysed. Las neurosis en la guerra, published in 1941, which recounts Bermann’s personal experience in the care of war neurosis in Spain, is also discussed.

“Diagnostic politics: The curious case of Kanner’s syndrome,” by Kurt Jacobsen. The abstract reads,

The consensus US (not European) narrative regarding diagnosis and aetiology of autism posits that misguided ‘parent-blaming’ psychogenic causes were supplanted due to solid research proving the presence of organic causes. Yet, upon scrutiny, it is questionable that the high-functioning, often high-IQ minority — about 15% of those labelled autistic — whose condition Kanner in 1943 first dubbed ‘infantile autism’ were absorbed into the ‘autistic spectrum’ on the basis of scientific evidence. Extra-scientific factors must be addressed in order to understand the status of the category today.

“One hundred years after Sigmund Freud’s lectures in America: Towards an integration of psychoanalytic theories and techniques within psychiatry,” by Leon Hoffman. The abstract reads,

The impact of Sigmund Freud’s lectures in America in 1909 is discussed. Some of the roots of psychoanalysis and their contemporary relevance are addressed: neurological ideas, the discussions of the sexologists, and the degeneration theories at the turn of the twentieth century. Factors which led to the dominance of psychoanalysis in psychiatry included, in particular, its arguments against the hopelessness of degeneracy theories; yet, by isolating itself from mainstream academic psychiatry and psychology, organized psychoanalysis itself contributed to its own subsequent marginalization. In order to re-integrate itself with mainstream psychiatry, psychoanalysis needs to appreciate the importance of systematic demonstrations of the therapeutic power of psychodynamic/psychoanalytic concepts and techniques when caring for individuals.

“Malaria fever therapy for general paralysis of the insane in Denmark,” by Jesper Kragh. The abstract reads,

This article explores the history of general paralysis and malaria fever therapy in Denmark. I argue that the small size of the country gave Danish psychiatrists excellent opportunities for performing statistical studies of general paralysis in the 19th century. In the early 1920s malaria fever therapy was introduced in Danish mental hospitals and raised hopes of a cure for paralytics. Malaria fever therapy became popular among Danish psychiatrists, but the new therapy also raised ethical questions and led to the first regulations concerning informed consent in the history of Danish psychiatry.

Classic Text No. 84: ‘Divisions of Personality and Spiritism’ by Alfred Binet (1896). Introduced by Carlos Alvarado. The abstract reads,

During the nineteenth century such individuals as Alfred Binet (1857—1911), who is the author of this Classic Text, conducted clinical and research work that led to the development and refinement of ideas about the subconscious mind and dissociation. The work concentrated on hysterical blindness, hypnosis, spontaneous somnambulism, and double and multiple personality. Another phenomenon that focused thinking on the topic was mediumship. The Classic Text is an excerpt from Binet’s writings that illustrates how a representative of French abnormal psychology used mediumship to defend his particular ideas about the mind. The excerpt is taken from the English language translation, published in 1896, of Binet’s Les Altérations de la personnalité (1892).

News and Notes: “The end of the asylum era in Central-Eastern Europe,” by Gábor Gazdag, Brigitta Baran, Zoltán Rihmer, and Max Fink. The abstract reads,

As part of the structural change in the Hungarian mental health system, a decision was made in March 2007 to close the National Institute of Psychiatry and Neurology. Known by professionals and laymen as ‘Lipót’, it was the oldest psychiatric institute in Hungary. The purpose of this brief communication is to outline the history of the Institute, highlighting its role in the development and advancement of Hungarian psychiatry.

About Jacy Young

Jacy Young is a professor at Quest University Canada. A critical feminist psychologist and historian of psychology, she is committed to critical pedagogy and public engagement with feminist psychology and the history of the discipline.

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