New History of Psychiatry: DSM, Phrenology, War Psychiatry, & More

The December 2016 issue of History of Psychiatry is now online. Articles in this issue explore psychiatric classification in the DSM, Italian colonial psychiatry, the phrenological studies of skulls, and more. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“Italian colonial psychiatry: Outlines of a discipline, and practical achievements in Libya and the Horn of Africa,” by Marianna Scarfone. The abstract reads,

This article describes the establishment of psychiatry in Italy’s former colonies during the period 1906–43, in terms of the clinical and institutional mechanisms, the underlying theories and the main individuals involved. ‘Colonial psychiatry’ (variously called ‘ethnographic’, ‘comparative’ or ‘racial’ psychiatry) – the object of which was both to care for mentally afflicted colonists and local people and also to understand and make sense of their pathologies – received most attention in colonial Libya, starting in the first months of the Italian occupation (1911–12) and then taking institutional form in the 1930s; in the colonies of what was known as ‘Italian East Africa’, on the other hand, less was said about psychiatric care, and practical achievements were correspondingly limited.

“Natural kinds, psychiatric classification and the history of the DSM,” by Jonathan Y Tsou. The abstract reads,

This paper addresses philosophical issues concerning whether mental disorders are natural kinds and how the DSM should classify mental disorders. I argue that some mental disorders (e.g. schizophrenia, depression) are natural kinds in the sense that they are natural classes constituted by a set of stable biological mechanisms. I subsequently argue that a theoretical and causal approach to classification would provide a method for classifying natural kinds that is superior to the purely descriptive approach adopted by the DSM since DSM-III. My argument suggests that the DSMshould classify natural kinds in order to provide predictively useful (i.e. projectable) diagnostic categories and that a causal approach to classification would provide a more promising method for formulating valid diagnostic categories.

“Platzschwindel, agoraphobia and their influence on theories of anxiety at the end of the nineteenth century: Theories of the role of biology and ‘representations’ (Vorstellungen),” by Yazan Abu Ghazal and Devon E Hinton. The abstract reads,

During the 1860s, Berlin’s exterior physiognomy transformed radically. The city eroded the surrounding rural areas, and the frontiers of the old city centre were abolished. These transformations led to the disappearance of the visible frontiers that once demarcated the limits of the old residential Prussian city. In this context, the description of the clinical picture of agoraphobia by the Berlin psychiatrist Carl Westphal in 1872 marked a turning point, not only in psychiatric theories on anxiety but also in the conceptualization of our experience of space. In this paper, the authors trace the emergence of a new psychology-neurology episteme during the last third of the nineteenth century; and they argue that such an episteme became possible once the relations between anxiety and modern city-scape had been clearly articulated.

“Esquirol’s change of view towards Pinel’s mania without delusion,” by Yohan Trichet and Agnès Lacroix. The abstract reads,

We recount how Jean-Étienne Dominique Esquirol (1772–1840) gradually changed his position towards what Philipe Pinel (1745–1826) referred to as mania without delusion. Between 1805 and 1838, Esquirol moved from outright rejection, questioning the very idea of insane persons committing motiveless acts of violence without delusion, to relative acceptance. He eventually incorporated the clinical characteristics of mania without delusion in his description of homicidal monomania, dividing them between reasoning monomania and instinctive monomania. We examine this change by detailing each of Esquirol’s points of disagreement, which decreased sharply between the completion of his thesis in 1805 and the publication of his chapter on homicidal monomania in 1838.

“A war psychiatry approach to warfare in the Middle Byzantine period,” by Pavlos Ntafoulis. The abstract reads,

Combat stress cases were traced in historical texts and military manuals on warfare from the Middle Byzantine period; they were mainly labelled as cowardice. Soldiers suffered from nostalgia or exhaustion; officers looked stunned, or could not speak during the battle. Cruel punishments were often enforced. Suicide and alcohol abuse were rarely mentioned. The Byzantines’ evacuation system for battle casualties was well organized. Psychological operations were conducted and prisoners-of-war were usually part of them. The Byzantine army had ‘parakletores’, officers assigned to encourage soldiers before combat. The leaders dealt with combat stress by using their rhetoric skills and emphasizing religious faith in eternal life. The treatment of the ‘cowards’ was rather similar to modern war psychiatry principles of treatment. No description of PTSD was found.

“A historiographic study of psychiatric treatments in Brazil: Mentalism and organicism from 1830 to 1859,” by Carlos Francisco Almeida de Oliveira, Carlos Evandro Martins Eulálio, Viriato Campelo, Paulo Dalgalarrondo, and Professor Tom Dening. The abstract reads,

Our aim is to investigate two major tendencies in nineteenth-century Brazilian alienism: mentalism and organicism, by conducting a descriptive study of original Brazilian documents on medical health treatments in the 1830s, 1840s and 1850s. Primary sources of Brazilian alienism were theses, memoirs, official reports, and documents written by clinicians and asylum directors. We analysed early mental treatment in Brazilian lunatic asylums, exploring the relative contributions of two main theoretical orientations: moral treatment (based on Pinel and Esquirol) and ‘medical-organicist therapeutic orientation’. Intertextuality was used to assess reports of medical organicist treatment in Brazil. We concluded that contemporaneous textual sources indicate that mid-nineteenth-century alienism in Brazil was predominantly influenced by organicism exported from European countries. Pinel’s mentalist view, nevertheless, remained the reference point for clinical issues associated with the doctor-patient relationship.

“Phrenology between anthropology and neurology in a nineteenth-century collection of skulls,” by Alberto Zanatta, Giuliano Scattolin, Gaetano Thiene, and Fabio Zampieri. The abstract reads,

The University of Padua has many legends about its cultural heritage. One of these concerns a collection of eight skulls still preserved in the Hall of Medicine at Bo Palace, near the old anatomy theatre built in 1545. It is said that some famous professors of the University donated their bodies to medical science, and the skulls were from these bodies. From multidisciplinary research, both historical and anthropological, we have discovered that Francesco Cortese, Professor of Medicine and Rector of the University, started this personal collection of colleagues’ skulls, although they had not donated their bodies to science, so that he could make his own detailed phrenology study.

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.