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Psychology, Sex and the Permissive Society

This seminar takes stock of the role of new psychological thinking in changing attitudes towards sexuality in twentieth-century Britain. Changes in this area are often seen as central in the emergence of a more permissive society in the 1960s and 1970s. The seminar reflects on this issue in relation to the subject of homosexuality. It also provides an opportunity to reflect more generally on the relationship between psychology, psychiatry and the permissive society, particularly through case studies of the popular psychology of Hans Eysenck, anti-psychiatry, and the feminist movement of the 1970s. Students will search contemporary magazines such as New Society, Spare Rib, and the Listener for evidence on these subjects.


Clare, Anthony, Psychiatry in Dissent (1976).

Collins, Marcus, Modern Love: An Intimate History of Men and Women in Twentieth-Century (2003).

Cook, Hera, The Long Sexual Revolution: English Women, Sex and Contraception 1800-1975 (2004).

Crossley, Nick, ‘Fish, Field, Habitus and Madness: On the First Wave Mental Health Users Movement in Britain’, British Journal of Sociology, 50 (1999), 647-70.

Crozier, Ivan, ‘Taking Prisoners: Havelock Ellis, Sigmund Freud, and the Construction of Homosexuality 1897-1951’, Social History of Medicine, 13 (2000), 447-66.

Crozier, Ivan Dalley. 'Nineteenth-Century British Psychiatric Writing about Homosexuality before Havelock Ellis : The Missing Story'. Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, 63:1 (2008), 65-102.

Davies, Christie, Permissive Britain: Social Change in the Sixties and Seventies (1975).

Eysenck, Hans, Rebel with a Cause (1990).

Francis, Martin, ‘Tears, Tantrums, and Bared Teeth: The Emotional Economy of Three Conservative Prime Ministers, 1951-1963’, Journal of British Studies, 41 (2002), 354-87.

Gijswijt-Hofstra, Marijke; Porter, Roy Sydney, 1946-2002 (ed.). Cultures of psychiatry and mental health care in postwar Britain and the Netherlands (Clio Medica, 49). Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1998.

Halmos, Paul, The Faith of the Counsellors (1965).

Heelas, Paul, The New Age Movement: The Celebration of the Self and the Sacralization of Modernity (1996).

Lasch, Christopher, The Culture of Narcissism (1980).

Jennings, Rebecca. '"The most uninhibited party they'd ever been to" : The Postwar Encounter between Psychiatry and the British Lesbian, 1945-1971'. Journal of British Studies, 47:4 (2008), 883-904.

Sedgwick, Peter, Psycho-Politics: Laing, Foucault, Goffman, Szasz and the Future of Mass Psychiatry (1982).

Sennett, Richard, The Fall of Public Man (1977).

Thom, Deborah. '"Beating children is wrong" : Domestic life, Psychological Thinking and the Permissive Turn'. In Delap, Lucy; Griffin, Ben; Wills, Abigail (ed.), The Politics of Domestic Authority in Britain since 1800 (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), 261-83.

Thomson, Mathew, ‘Towards the Permissive Society’, in Psychological Subjects, 250-88.

Waters, Chris, ‘Havelock Ellis, Sigmund Freud and the State: Discourses of Homosexual Desire in Interwar Britain’, in L. Doan & L. Bland (eds.), Cultural Sexology: Labelling Bodies and Desires, 1890-1940 (1998), pp. 165-79.

Waters, Chris, ‘Disorders of the Mind, Disorders of the Body Social: Peter Wildeblood and the Making of the Modern Homosexual’, in Becky Conekin, Frank Mort, and Chris Waters (eds.), Moments of Modernity: Reconstructing Britain 1945-1964 (1999).