Forthcoming in Social History of Medicine: Accident Neurosis, Neuroleptics, Rene Spitz and More

A number of articles forthcoming from Social History of Medicine that may interest AHP readers are now available online. Full titles, authors, and abstracts below.

What Do Babies Need to Thrive? Changing Interpretations of ‘Hospitalism’ in an International Context, 1900–1945,” by Katharina Rowold. Abstract:

In 1945, the émigré psychoanalyst René Spitz published a landmark article in which he suggested that babies cared for in institutions commonly suffered from ‘hospitalism’ and failed to thrive. According to Spitz this was the case because such babies were deprived of ‘maternal care, maternal stimulation, and maternal love.’ Historical interest in separation research and the development of the concept of maternal deprivation has tended to focus on the 1940s and 50s. The term ‘hospitalism’, however, was coined at the end of the nineteenth century and by 1945 the question of whether or not babies could be cared for in institutions had already been debated for a number of decades by an international community of paediatricians and developmental psychologists, later joined by psychoanalysts. Criss-crossing national boundaries and exploring debates over the nature, causes, and prevention of ‘hospitalism’, this article elucidates the changing understandings of the impact on babies of living in institutions.

Between Shell Shock and PTSD? ‘Accident Neurosis’ and Its Sequelae in Post-War Britain,” by Ryan Ross. Summary:

This article focuses on the concept of ‘accident neurosis’, popularised by neurologist Henry Miller in studies published in 1961. It aims to realise two goals. First, it introduces Miller’s concept of accident neurosis to the broader history of trauma—to a field, that is, more preoccupied with military traumata and clear-cut psychiatric aetiologies. Secondly, I use Miller’s studies, and the considerable legacy they created, to reflect on how historians of trauma construct historical narratives, asking whether there is sufficient appreciation of the ways in which events seem to leak into or retroactively animate one another.

A Chemical Revolution as Seen from below: The ‘Discovery’ of Neuroleptics in 1950s Paris,” by Benoît Majerus. Abstract:

The ‘success story’ of chlorpromazine on an international level has been told over and again. The prominence of Sainte Anne in Paris often features in these depictions. It played a critical role as a ‘laboratory’ between 1952 and 1954 in the narrative of the ‘invention’ of chlorpromazine as an antipsychotic. This paper intends to complete these global narratives by taking a closer look at the local therapy practice. The sources explored—from the systematic analysis of publications by Sainte-Anne psychiatrists and patient records—enable us to go beyond overused labels such as ‘discovery’, ‘revolution’ and ‘invention’ and glimpse inside the black boxes that these terms actually conceal. An analysis of the use of therapeutic tools reveals the level of ‘tinkering’ that occurred in medical practice. While the therapeutic arsenal was unquestionably diverse at the beginning of the 1950s, it was even more so by the end of the decade.

Behind Asylum Walls: Studying the Dialectic Between Psychiatrists and Patients at Montreal’s Saint-Jean-de-Dieu Hospital during the first half of the Twentieth Century,” by
Isabelle Perreault and Marie-Claude Thifault. Summary:

Hospital archives contain traces of psychiatric patients’ words—written and spoken accounts that could be construed as delusional, irrational and poetic. How are these singular historical narratives, transcripts and letters, which are often out of the ordinary, to be addressed? The historian is tempted to write these psychiatric cases off as nothing more than colourful examples. However, as per French historian Arlette Farge, ‘to take this discourse and work with it offers an answer to the desire to reintroduce lives and individualities into the historical narrative’. This paper questions the ways histories of madness are read and written, based on the rare words of patients found in psychiatric archives. How do we analyse these unique traces of intercourse between experts and marginalised individuals? What do they reveal about power relationships or resistance? Which standpoint should be taken, in order to write history from below, given the challenges posed by the narratives and social positions of the actors involved?

Reinvented Places: ‘Tradition’, ‘Family Care’ and Psychiatric Institutions in Japan,” by Susan L. Burns. Abstract:

This article explores the history of the care of the mentally ill at Iwakura, a site in northeast Kyoto in Japan where two large psychiatric hospitals now stand. Long a topic of research in Japan, Iwakura reflects a peculiar spatial arrangement common in Japan in which psychiatric hospitals came to be established near religious sites associated with care of the mentally ill in the pre-modern period. In the early twentieth century, Japan’s first generation of psychiatrists began to celebrate Iwakura as offering an indigenous form of ‘family care’, then the object of considerable discussion among psychiatrists and others in Europe and North America. I argue that the valorisation of Iwakura as offering a mode of care that was simultaneously ‘traditional’ and ‘progressive’ reflects the struggle to establish psychiatric institutions that involved local economic interests, public policy, and members of the new psychiatric discipline.

‘The Grand Organ of Sympathy’: ‘Fashionable’ Stomach Complaints and the Mind in Britain, 1700–1850,” by James Kennaway and Jonathan Andrews. Abstract:

Although the nerves have often been at the centre of the historiographical discussion of the so-called fashionable diseases of Georgian Britain, the stomach and digestion have at least as much claim for consideration. Associations between excessive consumption and elite status lent a touch of glamour to digestive problems, while creating the basis for a critique that depicted stomach maladies as the result of excess, greed and immorality. The first section of this paper explores how the patient experience of these disorders related to their glamorous connotations. The second part then considers changing views of the relationship between the digestion and the mind, arguing that the stomach was very much at the heart of ideas of selfhood until the nineteenth century. The third section examines the reasons for the apparent decline of modish stomach complaints at the end of the Georgian era in terms of changing medical thinking and socio-cultural context.

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.