New History of Psychiatry: Eugenics, Therapeutic Showers, and More

The March 2019 issue of History of Psychiatry is now available online. Full details follow below.

“Ancient philosophers on mental illness,” by Marke Ahonen. Abstract:

This article explores how the ancient philosophers from Plato to late antiquity understood mental illness. It outlines when, how and in what kind of contexts the phenomenon of mental illness was recognized in the ancient philosophical texts, how mental illness was understood in terms of the body–mind interaction, and how mental disorders of the medical kind were distinguished from non-medical psychic disturbances. It establishes that, while the philosophers mostly understood mental illness along the lines of ancient medical thinking, their ideas, for example on the nature and location of the soul, informed their theories of mental illness.

“Eugenic concerns, scientific practices: international relations in the establishment of psychiatric genetics in Germany, Britain, the USA and Scandinavia, c.1910–60,” by Volker Roelcke. Abstract:

The article describes the emergence of research programmes, institutions and activities of the early protagonists in the field of psychiatric genetics: Ernst Rüdin in Munich, Eliot Slater in London, Franz Kallmann in New York and Erik Essen-Möller in Lund. During the 1930s and well into the Nazi period, the last three had been research fellows at the German Research Institute for Psychiatry in Munich. It is documented that there was a continuous mutual exchange of scientific ideas and practices between these actors, and that in all four contexts there were intrinsic relations between eugenic motivations and genetic research, but with specific national adaptations.

“Amok: a mirror of time and people. A historical review of literature,” by Hissei Imai, Yusuke Ogawa, Kiyohito Okumiya, Kozo Matsubayashi. Abstract:

The conceptualization of psychiatric disorders changes continuously. This study examined ‘amok’, a culture-bound syndrome related to sudden mass homicide, to elucidate changing and varied concepts. A historical review of 88 English articles revealed that the meanings and assumed causes of amok have changed over time. These changes appear to have been affected by social events, medical discoveries, knowledge of descriptors and occasionally, the benefit to users. In other words, the concept of amok changes depending on the history of society and the knowledge and intention of people at the time. We should consider in detail what we focus on when diagnosing a disorder.

“Showers: from a violent treatment to an agent of cleansing,” by Stephanie C Cox, Clare Hocking, Deborah Payne. Abstract:

In the early nineteenth century, physicians designed the first manufactured showers for the purpose of curing the insane. Sustained falls of cold water were prescribed to cool hot, inflamed brains, and to instil fear to tame impetuous wills. By the middle of the century showers had appeared in both asylums and prisons, but shower-related deaths led to their decline. Rather than being abandoned, however, the shower was transformed by the use of warm water to economically wash the skins of prison and asylum populations. In stark contrast to an involuntary, deliberately unpleasant treatment, by the end of the century the shower was a desirable product for the improvement of personal hygiene and population health.

“Psychiatrists and mental health activism during the final phase of the Franco regime and the democratic transition,” by Rafael Huertas. Abstract:

In the final years of the Franco dictatorship and during the period known as the democratic transition, there were a significant number of protests in the sphere of mental health in Spain. This article analyses the origins and functioning of the Psychiatric Network, which emerged in 1971, its connection to the formation of professional organizations and its role in the reception of anti-psychiatry ideas in Spain. We reach the conclusion that, although the Network’s activities took place within a left-wing political and ideological framework, and at such an important time of social change as the end of the dictatorship, its discourse and practices always demonstrated a marked professional approach.

“Colonial surgeon Patrick Hill (1794–1852): unacknowledged pioneer of Australian mental healthcare,” by Toby Raeburn, Carol Liston, Jarrad Hickmott, Michelle Cleary. Abstract:

Despite making a substantial contribution to the development of mental health services in colonial Australia, until now the story of Dr Patrick Hill’s (1794–1852) life has been overlooked by historians. This paper reviews primary sources including clinical notes, patient lists, letters, government documents and newspaper articles which reveal that Dr Hill was a dedicated physician who played a vital role in the development of Australian mental healthcare. He was held in such esteem that by the time of his sudden death in 1852 he had been elevated to the most senior medical office in New South Wales. Dr Hill’s career serves to exemplify how the local practice of individual colonial doctors helped build the reputation of medicine in the modern era.

“Managing difficult and violent adolescents (adolescents difficiles) in France: a genealogical approach,” by Yannis Gansel. Abstract:

‘Difficult adolescent’ is a clinical category defined by psychiatrists’ expertise. Since the end of the 1990s, it has been extensively used to describe a population of disruptive, violent yet vulnerable adolescents, at the margins of public institutions that manage youth deviancy in France. For the present study, an interconnected network of 49 documents was analysed using a genealogical method in order to provide comprehensive elements in the results. This category found its ecological niche in the 1960s, revealing a moral tension in the use of constraint. It addressed new problems of intractable individuals, whose dangerousness and vulnerability require coordination between penal, social and psychiatric institutions. It defines an ambiguous condition, suspended between the trouble experienced by the caregivers and an adolescent’s individual disorder.

About Jacy Young

Jacy Young recently completed a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Surrey in the UK. She earned her doctorate in the History and Theory of Psychology at York University in 2014.