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,

The term nostalgia was first proposed in 1688 by Johannes Hofer as equivalent to the German term Heimweh. It referred to a state of moral pain associated with the forced separation from family and social environment. Consecutive clinical descriptions from the seventeenth century up to the present day have been subjected to the aetiopathogenic and clinical paradigms of each period. Golden-age descriptions of nostalgia that are of particular interest were derived from the observation of conscript soldiers in Napoleonic campaigns by authors such as Gerbois and Larrey. In 1909 Jaspers devoted his doctoral thesis to this topic (Nostalgia und Verbrechen). From a cultural history point of view, it could be considered today as an example of ‘transient illness’. The nosological relay has taken place through clinical pictures such as the pathology associated with exile, forced displacements and psychosis of captivity.

“‘An atmosphere of cure’: Frederick Mott, shell shock and the Maudsley,” by Edgar Jones. The abstract reads,

Although recognized as a medical scientist, the work of Frederick Mott as a physician, educator and clinical policymaker has been overshadowed. As a late entrant to the asylum system, Mott questioned established practices of treating mentally-ill patients and campaigned for reform. During World War I, entrusted with the management of the Maudsley neurological section, he sought to raise clinical standards and experimented with a range of therapies designed to treat the most severe or intractable forms of shell shock. While Mott believed that psychiatric disorder was underwritten by inherited characteristics, he did not dismiss the impact of the environment. The diversity of his interests has led to an understatement of his contribution as a physician, not only to the design and founding of the Maudsley Hospital but also to the therapeutic regime practised there during the interwar period.

“Langues et histoire de la psychiatrie,” by Jean Garrabé. The abstract reads,

Les historiens datent la naissance de la psychiatrie de l’époque où les médecins renoncent à utiliser le latin comme langue scientifique internationale. A partir de la fin du XVIIIe siècle ils publient désormais leurs travaux sur la pathologie mentale dans une langue européenne moderne comme l’anglais, le français, l’allemand, l’italien ou l’espagnol. Certains de textes publiés dans une de celles-ci d’entre sont traduits plus ou moins rapidement dans une ou plusieurs autres. Mais des textes importants ne le sont pas ou très tardivement; les nouveaux concepts psychopathologiques introduits restent méconnus des médecins qui ne connaissent pas la langue originale. Ils sont oubliés et les termes qui les désignent sont remplacés dans les classifications récentes des troubles mentaux par de nouvelles dénominations sans référence à une conception théorique du trouble initialement décrit. L’histoire de la psychiatrie doit étudier l’évolution dans le temps de ces termes traditionnels depuis leur premier emploi par un auteur dans une de ces langues modernes jusqu’à leur éventuel abandon actuel pour comprendre si celui-ci est justifié.

“The birth of schizophrenia or a very modern Bleuler: A close reading of Eugen Bleuler’s ‘Die Prognose der Dementia praecox’ and a re-consideration of his contribution to psychiatry,” by Anke Maatz and Paul Hoff. The abstract reads,

After Eugen Bleuler introduced ‘schizophrenia’ in 1908, the term was hotly debated but eventually led to the abandonment of Kraepelin’s previous term ‘dementia praecox’. Bleuler’s contribution has subsequently been interpreted in two main ways. One tradition holds that Bleuler merely renamed ‘dementia praecox’ while conceptually continuing the Kraepelinian tradition. The other, focusing on Bleuler’s characterization of ‘dementia praecox’ in terms of specific psychological alterations, accredits him with a genuine re-conceptualization. Based on a close reading of ‘Die Prognose der Dementia praecox’, the paper in which Bleuler first mentioned ‘schizophrenia’, we suggest a further interpretation of Bleuler’s contribution and argue that the main motive for his re-conceptualization is to be found in his rejection of Kraepelinian nosology.

“Madness as disability,” by Sander L Gilman. The abstract reads,

How does society imagine mental illness? Does this shift radically over time and with different social attitudes as well as scientific discoveries about the origins and meanings of mental illness? What happens when we begin to think about mental illness as madness, as a malleable concept constantly shifting its meaning? We thus look at the meanings associated with ‘general paralysis of the insane’ in the nineteenth century and autism today in regard to disability. In this case study we examine the claims by scholars such as the anthropologist Emily Martin and the psychiatrist Kay Jamison as to the relationship between mental illness, disability and creativity. Today, the health sciences have become concerned with mental illness as a form of disability. How does this change the meaning of madness for practitioners and patients?

“Psychiatric ‘diseases’ in history,” by David Healy. The abstract reads,

A history of psychiatry cannot step back from the question of psychiatric diseases, but the field has in general viewed psychiatric entities as manifestations of the human state rather than medical diseases. There is little acknowledgement that a true disease is likely to rise and fall in incidence. In outlining the North Wales History of Mental Illness project, this paper seeks to provide some evidence that psychiatric diseases do rise and fall in incidence, along with evidence as to how such ideas are received by other historians of psychiatry and by biological psychiatrists.

“Subjectivity in clinical practice: On the origins of psychiatric semiology in early French alienism,” by Rafael Huertas. The abstract reads,

The aim of this article is to contribute to the analysis of the origins of psychiatric semiology, which by emphasizing subjectivity in clinical practice, gave birth to psychopathology as the scientific and intellectual enterprise of alienism. In other words, beyond simple anatomical and clinical observation, there was an effort to ‘listen to’ and ‘read’ the patient’s delirium. In essence, the basic thesis which this short paper seeks to defend is that, despite a growing anatomical and clinical mind-set and a clear interest in physically locating mental illness within the body, during the Romantic period, psychiatry was able to construct a semiology largely based on the experience of the ego, on the inner world of the individual. This makes it possible to establish, from a clinical perspective, that the birth of alienism – of psychiatry – must be situated within the framework of a modernity in which the culture of subjectivity was one of its most characteristic features.

“White men and weak masculinity: Men in the public asylums in Victoria, Australia, and New Zealand, 1860s–1900s,” by Catharine Coleborne. The abstract reads,

This article reveals a set of formulations of masculine identity through the fragments of extant casebook evidence from nineteenth-century psychiatric institutions in Victoria, Australia, and Auckland, New Zealand. It shows that some patterns in the identification of masculinity and insanity emerge, also highlighting the relevance of individual stories and ‘cases’ to fully understand how masculine identities were fashioned through medical institutional language.

“The distinction between ‘Passion’ and ‘Emotion’. Vincenzo Chiarugi: A case study,” by Louis C. Charland. The abstract reads,

The distinction between ‘passion’ and ‘emotion’ has been largely overlooked in the history of psychiatry and the psychopathology of affectivity. A version of the distinction that has gone completely unnoticed is the one proposed by Florentine physician Vincenzo Chiarugi (1759–1820). The purpose of the present discussion is to introduce this Italian version of the distinction and to inquire into its origins.

“The ten most important changes in psychiatry since World War II,” by Mark S. Micale. The abstract reads,

Writing the recent history of a subject is notoriously difficult because of the lack of perspective and impartiality. One way to gain insight and understanding into the recent past of a discipline of knowledge is to consult directly the living practitioners who actually experienced first-hand the major changing circumstances in the discipline during the period under study. This article seeks to explore the most significant changes occurring in Western, and especially American, psychiatry from the end of World War II up to the present by interrogating a representative selection of psychiatrists and psychologists about the subject. Over a three-year period, the author surveyed approximately 200 mental health experts on their perceptions of change in the world of psychiatric theory and practice during this enormously eventful 70-year period. After presenting the survey results, the article then attempts to analyse the answers that the author did (and did not) obtain from his poll-taking subjects.

Classic Text No. 100: “‘Introduction’ to ‘Episodic Psychoses’, by Erik Strömgren (1940),” Introduction and translation by Johan Schioldann. The abstract reads,

This anniversary Classic Text, the ‘Introduction’ from Strömgren’s ‘Episodic Psychoses’, provides a comprehensive, concise and erudite exposition of the history, nosography and nosology of these conditions. Strömgren traces the origin of this term and concepts back to Magnan’s degeneration psychoses and associated ‘syndromes épisodiques’. Especially inspired by ‘the psychogenic psychosis’ (1916), the seminal work by his mentor, August Wimmer, he convincingly shows that the episodic psychoses constitute an intermediate link between the degeneration psychoses, now an obsolete term, and the psychogenic psychoses, reactive psychoses and brief reactive psychoses, which in their own right have been a bone of contention in international psychiatry for many decades and an obstacle in achieving consensus in international psychiatric classification.

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.