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Week 15: Post-War Mental Health

Lecturer: Mathew Thomson

This seminar addresses the history of mental health care from the mid-twentieth century onwards. Though there is a particular focus on Britain as a case study of Western psychiatry, the seminar also opens up consideration of the globalization of mental health care concern in the post-war era. It considers the roles of the Second World War, the rise of welfare states and international government, and growing interest in neuroses, milder forms of mental disturbance, and new therapeutics in extending the ambitions of mental health care. On the other hand, it also attempts to explain why this period saw the spectacular decline of the asylum as a solution for problems of mental disorder. Finally, it considers the implications of this bifurcation between ambition and provision.


Discussion/Essay Questions:

Why has the ambition of mental health care expanded since the Second World War?

How do we explain the ongoing status of mental health care as a ‘Cinderella’ service?

From the patient perspective, was post-war development in mental health a good or a bad thing?


Required Readings:

Gavin Miller, ‘Is the Agenda for Global Mental Health a Form of Cultural Imperialism?, Medical Humanities, 40 (2014), pp. 131-4. [e-journal]

Andrew Scull, ‘A Psychiatric Revolution?’ (Chapter 12) in his Madness in Civilization (2015), pp. 358-411.[extracts]

Barbara Taylor, 'The Demise of the Asylum in Late Twentieth-Century Britain: A Personal History', Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 21 (2011), 193-215. [e-journal]

John Turner et al, ‘The History of Mental Health Services in Modern England : Practitioner Memories and the Direction of Future Research’, Medical History, 59:4 (2015) 599-624 [e-journal]


Further Readings:

Peter Barham, Closing the Asylum (1997)

Teri Chettiar, “Democratizing Mental Health: Motherhood, Therapeutic Community, and the Emergence of the Psychiatric Family at the Cassel Hospital in Post-WWII Britain,” History of the Human Sciences, December 2012, Volume 25 (5), 107-122.

Diana Gittins, Madness in its Place: Narratives of Severalls Hospitals, 1913-1997 (1998) Rhodri Hayward ‘Psychology and the Pursuit of Serenity in Post War Britain’ in Barbara Taylor and Sally Alexander (eds) Clio’s Dream: Psychoanalysis and History (2012)

Rhodri Hayward, The transformation of the psyche in British primary care 1880 – 1970 (2014).

David Healy, The Anti-Depressant Era (1997)

Matthew Heaton, Black Skins, White Coats: Nigerian Psychiatrists, Decolonization and the Globalization of Psychiatry (2013).

China Mills, Decolonizing Global Mental Health: The Psychiatrization of the Majority World (2014)

Graham Richards, ‘Britain on the Couch : the Popularization of Psychoanalysis in Britain, 1918-1940’, Science in Context, 13:2 (2000) 183-230

Denise Riley, War in the Nursery: Theories of the Child and Mother (1983).

Nikolas Rose, Governing the Soul: The Shaping of the Private Self (1989).

Andrew Scull, Decarceration: Community Treatment and the Deviant (1977, 1984)

Michal Shapira, The War Inside: psychoanalysis, total war, and the making of the democratic self in Postwar Britain (2013).

Edward Shorter, A History of Psychiatry from the Era of the Asylum to the Age of Prozac (1997).

Barbara Taylor, The Last Asylum: A Memoir of Madness in our Times (2014).

Mathew Thomson, Psychological Subjects: Identity, Culture and Health in Twentieth Century Britain (2006)

Ethan Watters, Crazy like Us: The Globalization of the Western Mind (2011)