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. Pavlov’s teaching of the second signal system was well suited to Soviet ideological needs: speech stimuli were seen as a vehicle for moulding the individual’s mind. The transformation in diagnostic practices during the 1970s and 1980s reflected the demise of optimism about the capacity of the self to model itself to the needs of the society. Latvian psychiatry was prepared to embrace more individualistic and pessimistic theories of the self.

“‘Good in all respects’: appearance and dress at Staffordshire County Lunatic Asylum, 1818-54,” by Rebecca Wynter. The abstract reads,

Dress was integral to the ideals and practice of Staffordshire County Lunatic Asylum, an institution catering for all social classes. Lunatics’ appearance was used to gauge the standard of care inside the asylum and beyond. Clothing was essential for moral treatment and physical health. It helped to denote social and institutional class: clothes were integral to paupers’ admission; rich patients spent time and money dressing; for disturbed inmates and those who destroyed asylum attire, the consequence could be ‘secure dress’, which was fundamental to therapeutics. Later, when an ethos of non-restraint was introduced, the superintendent used patients’ appearance to propagate an image of his enlightened care.

“Sexuality and psychoanalytic aggrandisement: Freud’s 1908 theory of cultural history,” by Patricia Cotti. The abstract reads,

In 1908, in his article ‘“Civilized” sexual morality and modern nervous illness’, Freud presented neuroses as the consequence of a restrictive state of cultural development and its ‘civilized morality’. He found the inspiration for this idea by expanding upon previous formulations in this area by his predecessors (notably Christian von Ehrenfels) that focused on a cultural process earlier introduced by Kant, while also integrating in his analysis the principles of Haeckel’s evolutionism (history of development, recapitulation) which eventually re-defined the psychoanalytic theory of neuroses. These new theoretical elements became the basis of psychoanalytic theory and thereby influenced subsequent thinking in the cultural process itself and in human sciences. This transformation of underlying theory provided a unique historical and analytical framework for psychoanalysis which allowed Freud to claim for it a pre-eminent position among the human sciences.

“Infanticide in Mecklenburg and Western Pomerania: Documents from four centuries (1570—1842),” by Günther Häßler and Frank Häßler. The abstract reads,

In this study we present an unprecedented comprehensive overview of cases of infanticide in the region of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, from the end of the 16th century to the middle of the 19th century. Using the Faculty of Law’s verdict files stored in the University of Rostock’s archives, we analysed and evaluated 362 cases. Changes in the prosecution of this crime, in the way the trials were conducted and in the passing of sentences illustrate the judicial conceptions of the academics, as well as being of great social interest. For the almost exclusively female defendants, behavioural patterns occurred repeatedly: shame, confusion and hopelessness triggered concealment of the pregnancy and ultimately the deliberate or negligent killing of the newborn child.

“Vitamins for the soul: John Bowlby’s thesis of maternal deprivation, biomedical metaphors and the deficiency model of disease,” by Eduardo Duniec and Mical Raz. The abstract reads,

In 1951 John Bowlby, British psychoanalyst and child psychiatrist, published his now famous report, Maternal Care and Mental Health, commissioned by the World Health Organization. In this report, Bowlby coined the term ‘maternal deprivation’, which quickly permeated into Western psychiatry and psychology. The implications of Bowlby’s writings, while widely criticized and contested, generated a considerable amount of research and brought about significant changes in perceptions of separation between children and their mothers. This article examines the origins of the ‘maternal deprivation’ hypothesis, focusing on how the deficiency theory of disease influenced psychiatric discourse, and framed Bowlby’s theory of maternal care. We argue that developments in paediatric medicine, and particularly in the field of nutritional deficiencies, provided Bowlby a prototype for conceptualizing his early views on the psychological needs of children and the development of psychopathology.

“‘On Periodical Depressions and their Pathogenesis’ by Carl Lange (1886),” by Johan Schioldann. The abstract reads,

Carl Lange was the founding father of neurology in Denmark, authoring several pioneering works within this field; however, these remained largely unknown internationally as he did not have them translated into a major language. He became a pioneer of psychophysiology with his contribution to the so-called James-Lange theory of emotion. His treatise on ‘periodical depressions’ (‘the Lange theory of depressions’, 1886), is not only an early historical landmark but also a masterly ‘modern’ description concerning the nosology and nosography of recurrent depressions. Moreover, it is a landmark in the early history of lithium therapy, sadly ignored by Lange’s contemporaries, but which little more than half a century later, with Cade’s rediscovery of lithium’s therapeutic effect in mood disorders in 1949, ushered in modern psychopharmacology.

Book Review: Ian Marsh, Suicide: Foucault, History and Truth. Reviewed by Philip Thomas.

“Convergences that are no more,” by G.E. Berrios. The abstract reads,

The study of psychiatric disorders that are no more is as important to the historian of psychiatry as that of those considered as ‘current’, ‘true’ and ‘scientific’. Indeed, within each historical period this latter status is conferred upon ongoing mental and physical disorders. As an example, a historical vignette is offered of ‘Bulimia’, a popular disorder during the 18th century but since disappeared. It is suggested that mental symptoms, syndromes and disorders are constructed by the convergence in the work of a writer of a name, a concept and behaviours which at the time are considered as socially undesirable. Complex social and economic factors determine the success of a convergence. The word Bulimia is still in use in the 21st century but is a member of an entirely different convergence.

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.