New History of Psychiatry: Mental Health in Colonial Lesotho, Asylum Admission Forms, and More

The June 2021 issue of History of Psychiatry is now online. Full details below.

“‘Pruning a genius’: marginalia by Richard Dadd,” Nicholas Tromans. Abstract:

After falling into mental illness as a young man, the British artist Richard Dadd (1817–86) spent some 20 years as a patient at Bethlem Hospital in London. A rare example of his writings from these years survives in the form of marginalia in a copy of Lectures on Painting and Design by Benjamin Robert Haydon, held in the Morgan Library & Museum in New York. This article presents a transcription of the notes, along with an introduction setting them in the contexts of Dadd’s career and his relationship with the senior staff at Bethlem.

“Public mental health care in colonial Lesotho: themes emerging from archival material, 1918–35,” Motlatsi Thabane. Abstract:

This paper identifies some of the themes that emerge from a study of official archival records from 1918 to 1934 on the subject of mental health in colonial Lesotho. They include: difficulties experienced by colonial medical doctors in diagnosing and treating mental illnesses, given the state of medical knowledge in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; impact of shortage of financial and other resources on the establishment and operation of medical services, especially mental health care; convergence of social order, financial and medical concerns as influences on colonial approaches to mental health care; and the question of whether Basotho colonial society saw institutionalization of their relatives as ‘hospitalization’ or ‘imprisonment’. Two case studies are presented as preliminary explorations of some of the themes.

“Moreau de Tours: organicism and subjectivity. Part 1: Life and work,” Jose I Pérez Revuelta and Jose M Villagrán Moreno. Abstract:

This is the first of two articles analysing the importance of J.J. Moreau de Tours’ work and its influence on the development of descriptive psychopathology from the mid-nineteenth century to the present. Part 1 focuses on biographical aspects and presents Moreau’s main works in their social and cultural context, with special emphasis on his book Du Hachisch et de l’Aliénation mentale, published in 1845. The second article will concentrate on Moreau as a psychopathologist.

“The staff of madness: the visualization of insanity and the othering of the insane,” Alvise Sforza Tarabochia. Abstract:

In this article I trace a history of the most ubiquitous visual symbol of madness: the staff. First, I argue that the staff, in its variants (such as the pinwheel) and with its attachments (such as an inflated bladder), represents madness as air. It thus represents madness as an invisible entity that must be made visible. Secondly, I claim that the staff – being iconic of other ‘unwanted’ categories such as vagabonds – represents the insane as outsiders. Also in this case, the staff serves the purpose of making madness visible. Through this interpretation I show that the urge to make madness visible outlives icons of insanity such as the staff, making it a constant presence in popular culture and medical practice.

“Karl Leonhard (1904–88) and his academic influence through the ‘Erlangen School’,” Birgit Braun. Abstract:

The Erlangen University Psychiatric and Mental Clinic was an annexe to the Erlangen Mental Asylum, so when Leonhard worked there he became acquainted with acute and chronic stages of schizophrenia. This can be viewed as a decisive impulse for his later differentiated classification of types of schizophrenia. The suspicion that Leonhard suffered from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder cannot be supported. His reticence concerning social-psychiatric aspects is analysed in the context of his early professional contact with the ‘Erlangen system’ of open care and its Nazi perversion. Leonhard’s role in National Socialism is still uncertain. His unsuccessful attempts to retain the Erlangen Chair of Psychiatry and Mental Illness in 1951 can be viewed as his first difficulty in the tensions between West Germany and East Germany.

“The paper technology of confinement: evolving criteria in admission forms (1850–73),” Filippo M Sposini. Abstract:

This paper investigates the role of admission forms in the regulation of asylum confinement in the second half of the nineteenth century. Taking the Toronto Lunatic Asylum as a case study it traces the evolution of the forms’ content and structure during the first decades of this institution. Admission forms provide important material for understanding the medico-legal assessment of lunacy in a certain jurisdiction. First, they show how the description of insanity depended on a plurality of actors. Second, doctors were not necessarily required to indicate symptoms of derangement. Third, patients’ relatives played a fundamental role in providing clinical information. From an historiographical perspective, this paper invites scholars to consider the function of standardized documents in shaping the written identity of patients.

“Infanticide and the influence of psychoanalysis on Dutch forensic psychiatry in the mid-twentieth century,” Willemijn Ruberg. Abstract:

This article demonstrates how psychoanalytic thought, especially ideas by Adler, Reik, Deutsch, and Alexander and Staub, informed forensic psychiatry in the Netherlands from the late 1920s. An analysis of psychiatric explanations of the crime of infanticide shows how in these cases the focus of (forensic) medicine and psychiatry shifted from somatic medicine to a psychoanalytic emphasis on unconscious motives. A psychoanalytic vocabulary can also be found in the reports written by forensic psychiatrists and psychologists in court cases in the 1950s. The new psychoanalytic emphasis on unconscious motives implied a stronger focus on the personality of the suspect. This article argues that psychoanalysis accelerated this development in the mid-twentieth century, contributing to the role of the psy-sciences in normalization processes.

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.