Materials of the Mind: Phrenology, Race, and the Global History of Science, 1815-1920

A new book describing the global history of phrenology may interest AHP readers. Materials of the Mind: Phrenology, Race, and the Global History of Science, 1815-1920 by James Poskett is described as follows:

Phrenology was the most popular mental science of the Victorian age. From American senators to Indian social reformers, this new mental science found supporters around the globe. Materials of the Mind tells the story of how phrenology changed the world—and how the world changed phrenology.
This is a story of skulls from the Arctic, plaster casts from Haiti, books from Bengal, and letters from the Pacific. Drawing on far-flung museum and archival collections, and addressing sources in six different languages, Materials of the Mind is an impressively innovative account of science in the nineteenth century as part of global history. It shows how the circulation of material culture underpinned the emergence of a new materialist philosophy of the mind, while also demonstrating how a global approach to history can help us reassess issues such as race, technology, and politics today.

On the Heels of Ignorance: Psychiatry and the Politics of Not Knowing

AHP readers may be interested in a new book from University of Chicago Press: On the Heels of Ignorance: Psychiatry and the Politics of Not Knowing by Owen Whooley. The book is described as follows:

Psychiatry has always aimed to peer deep into the human mind, daring to cast light on its darkest corners and untangle its thorniest knots, often invoking the latest medical science in doing so. But, as Owen Whooley’s sweeping new book tells us, the history of American psychiatry is really a record of ignorance. On the Heels of Ignorance begins with psychiatry’s formal inception in the 1840s and moves through two centuries of constant struggle simply to define and redefine mental illness, to say nothing of the best way to treat it. Whooley’s book is no antipsychiatric screed, however; instead, he reveals a field that has muddled through periodic reinventions and conflicting agendas of curiosity, compassion, and professional striving. On the Heels of Ignorance draws from intellectual history and the sociology of professions to portray an ongoing human effort to make sense of complex mental phenomena using an imperfect set of tools, with sometimes tragic results.

June 2019 History of Psychiatry: Toulouse’s Dementia Test, the Italian Psychiatric ‘Revolution’

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

“Not just a one-man revolution: The multifaceted anti-asylum watershed in Italy,” by Giuseppe A Micheli. Abstract:

The Italian psychiatric ‘revolution’ is the story of a range of flexible, changing formulas, exposed to many ‘contaminations’. Historical reconstructions have remained anchored to the lure of a founding myth and an eponymous hero. This essay aims to shed light on the multi-faceted concept of the Italian ‘moral management revolution’. We especially focus on: the circumstances which triggered the innovation in its various form; the ‘prototypes’ available in other countries which have been variously recombined in the different local contexts; the ‘special path’ of action strategies which has driven the change towards radical closure of the asylums; and the cause–effect relationship between the above ‘special path’ and several aspects of the current state of deadlock.

“Through a glass darkly: Patients of the Illinois State Hospital for the Insane at Jacksonville, USA (1854–80),” by Richard J Howarth, Shirley A Aleguas. Abstract:

The State Hospital for the Insane at Jacksonville, Morgan County, Illinois, was the first public hospital of its kind to be established in the state and among the earliest to be built on the ‘Kirkbride Plan’. It opened for patients in 1851. We describe the background to the establishment of the hospital and, so far as is possible from publicly available sources, its catchment area, the nature of the patients held there up to 1880, its mechanisms of discharge, and supposed causes of death. We end with a plea that after over 150 years, the release of hospital casebooks and similar records in digital form would be of considerable benefit to historians of psychology, scientific biographers, genealogists and demographers.

“Karl Jaspers and Karl Popper: The shared legacy,” by Chris Walker. Abstract:

Jaspers and Popper have nothing in common beyond the legacy of Immanuel Kant’s philosophy. Popper dismisses Jaspers ‘existentialism’ as nihilistic and historicist; Jaspers never cites Popper. Jaspers describes Kant as ‘the philosopher for me’; Popper is an unorthodox Kantian whose critical rationalism put the finishing touch to Kant. For Kant, knowledge is not a simple copy of reality, but begins with reason’s questioning. Jaspers and Popper too insist that theory has priority over observation. For Jaspers, ‘there is already theory in every fact’; for Popper, ‘every statement has the character of a theory’. Science begins with metaphysical Ideas which become scientific when tested in experience. They differ in Popper’s rejection of induction in favour of falsification, while Jaspers tacitly accepts induction.

“Confusion about confusion: Édouard Toulouse’s dementia test, 1905–20,” by Elizabeth Nelson. Abstract:

Psychiatrist Édouard Toulouse (1865–1947) is known today for his 1896 psychometric study of the novelist Émile Zola, and his contributions to mental hygiene, sexology, eugenics, and labour efficiency in inter-war France. This paper examines research undertaken in Toulouse’s Laboratory of Experimental Psychology at the Villejuif asylum near Paris. In 1905, Toulouse created a test that could differentiate between dementia and mental confusion, a test that could aid in the classification of patients at the overcrowded Villejuif facility. By 1920, however, the test’s early promise was undercut by unforeseen, ‘machinic’ resistance that emerged in the experimental process. This case study demonstrates the non-linear nature of scientific practice and limits of even the most innovative asylum reforms in this period.

“As good as it gets: An empirical study on mentally-ill patients and their stay at a general hospital in Sweden, 1896–1905,” by Malin Appelquist, Louise Brådvik, Ingemar Ottosson, Marie Åsberg. Abstract:

General hospital care and treatment of mentally ill patients in a Swedish town was studied in records for 503 patients, 1896–1905. Restraint was extremely rare; 65% left the hospital as healthy or improved. Non-psychotic and alcoholic patients spent fewer days in hospital than patients with psychosis or dementia. There was no evidence of a social status bias. For 36% of the patients a certificate for mental hospital care was issued, with additional information. The cause of illness was stated as unknown for 42% of these patients; adverse circumstances were recorded for 18%. Heredity for mental illness was found in 50% of the patients, particularly in those with mania. Patients with a higher social status were underrepresented.

“The theory of symptom complexes, mind and madness,” by Mauricio V Daker. Abstract:

Kahlbaum’s seminal approach to symptom complexes, as opposed to disease entities, is still relevant. Many psychopathologists have approached mental symptom complexes without prejudging them as necessary physical deficits or diseases, favouring a broader dimensional and anthropological view of mental disorders. Discussions of symptom complexes gained prominence in psychiatry in the early twentieth century – through Hoche – and in the period leading up to World War II – through Carl Schneider. Their works, alongside those of Kraepelin, Bumke, Kehrer, Jaspers and others, are reviewed in relation to the theme of symptom complexes, the mind, and mental disorders. A particular feature of symptom complexes is their relationship to aspects of the normal mind and how this affects clinical manifestations. It is further suggested that symptom complexes might offer a useful bridge between the psychic and the biological in theories of the mind.

New Articles: Historiography of Psychiatry and History of ADHD

Two articles in the Spring 2019 issue of the Canadian Bulletin of Medical History may interest AHP readers. Full details follow below:

« Imaginaire et sensibilités » : la mise en récit de la déshospitalisation psychiatrique en Ontario, by Marie-Claude Thifault. Abstract:

Ce texte propose une réflexion historiographique basée sur l’article « Les contrecoups de la déshospitalisation psychiatrique. L’exemple du parcours transinstitutionel de Françoise » tiré du récent ouvrage collectif La fin de l’asile ? Histoire de la déshospitalisation psychiatrique dans l’espace francophone au XXe siècle. L’auteure revient sur cet article, afin de mettre au jour le sous-texte et de raconter la méthode ainsi que le raisonnement historique qui ont donné vie au parcours psychiatrique d’une anonyme nommée Françoise. Cet exercice s’articule autour de trois points d’ancrage : son positionnement en tant que chercheure, les enjeux concernant l’approche narrative qu’elle explore et un constat sur le raisonnement historique intriqué dans une perspective interdisciplinaire. Influencée et inspirée des travaux d’Alain Corbin, George Duby, Roy Porter, Natalie Zemon Davis et Arlette Farge, l’historienne insiste sur sa démarche inéluctablement tournée vers une approche soucieuse de repérer dans les sources des traces de sentiments et d’émotions tout en étant connectée à une intuition subjective, loin des réflexes positivistes. En guise de conclusion, en lien avec son expérience dans les sources avec lesquelles elle travaille le plus – les dossiers psychiatriques –, une réflexion sur le renouvellement de l’écriture historienne et sa conviction qu’il est possible d’écrire l’histoire des gens ordinaires tout en les racontant avec sensibilité.

This paper proposes a historiographical discussion based on the article « Les contrecoups de la déshospitalisation psychiatrique. L’exemple du parcours transinstitutionel de Françoise ». Françoise’s transinstitutional journey presented in the collective publication La fin de l’asile ? Histoire de la déshospitalisation psychiatrique dans l’espace francophone au XXe siècle, gives me the opportunity to reveal the subtext of this article, and to describe the method and the historical reasoning that gave life to the psychiatric journey of an anonymous person named Françoise. This process is organized around three main points: my positioning as a researcher, the issues related to my narrative approach, and a statement on my historical reasoning in an interdisciplinary perspective. Influenced and inspired by the work of Alain Corbin, George Duby, Roy Porter, Natalie Zemon Davis and Arlette Farge, my approach focusses on the feelings and emotions hidden in historical sources. I remain connected to a subjective intuition, and stay away from positivist reflexes. Based on my research experience with psychiatric records, my conclusion explores the renewal of historical writing , in which I suggest that it is possible to write the history of ordinary people while telling stories with sensitivity.

““Snips and Snails and Puppy Dog Tails”: Boys and Behaviour in the USA,” by Matthew Smith. Abstract:

In The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain introduced two of the most iconic boys in American literature. Tom and Huck become heroic figures, despite their penchant for bad behaviour. Indeed, it is their propensity to be impulsive, break rules and defy authority that win them the day. Today, however, Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn have become the posterboys for a psychiatric disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD. I trace how and why attitudes about pathological boys’ behaviour reversed during the twentieth century, from a focus on shy, introverted, and physically passive boys to the very opposite – boys like Tom and Huck. I argue that, rather than imposing limits on childhood behaviour, we should be more accepting and encouraging of all types of children.

Dans Les Aventures de Tom Sawyer et Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain a fait connaître deux des garçons les plus emblématiques de la littérature américaine. Tom et Huck deviennent des personnages héroïques en dépit de leur mauvaise conduite. En fait, c’est leur tendance impulsive ; leur inclination à enfreindre les règles et à défier l’autorité qui les aide à sauver la mise. Aujourd’hui, Tom Sawyer et Huck Finn sont toutefois devenus synonymes d’un trouble psychiatrique : le trouble du déficit de l’attention avec ou sans hyperactivité, ou TDAH. Cet article démontre comment et pourquoi le 20e siècle entraîne un revirement des attitudes vis-à-vis des troubles pathologiques du comportement chez les garçons, alors que l’accent n’est plus mis sur les garçons timides, introvertis et physiquement passifs, mais sur des garçons comme Tom et Huck. Cet article conclut que, plutôt que d’imposer des limites au comportement des enfants, nous devrions avoir une attitude plus ouverte et supporter le développement de tous les types d’enfants.