Building Psychiatric Utopias in Post War Britain
Seminar with Dr Rhodri Hayward, Queen Mary University London
Refreshments served. All are welcome.
By the early 1930s it was a commonplace belief among British doctors that everyday illnesses could be seen as symptoms of social failure. Conditions ranging from ulcers to rheumatism, which has once been attributed to environmental factors such as diet or damp, were now read as coded social critiques: complaints incarnated in the sufferer through anxiety or stress. This form of interpretation transgressed the familiar boundaries between politics and medicine, opening up the possibility of a new kind of therapeutic intervention through social planning. This paper explores the life and work of a leading proponent of these ideas, Stephen Taylor (Lord Taylor of Harlow). Taylor, now largely remembered for his invention of the suburban neurosis, worked variously as a psychiatrist, Labour MP and advised on the design of the new towns. His career provides an insight into the postwar embrace of psychiatric utopianism and the idea that emotional health could be achieved through urban planning.