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Week 5: Psychology and Empire

Lecturer: James Poskett

The rise of new sciences of the mind is usually understood as a product of the Enlightenment. This lecture takes a different approach, arguing that the history of the mind is best approached through the history of empire. We explore the connection between the mind and empire, beginning in the eighteenth century and moving through to decolonisation in the twentieth century. In the process we also recover the role of colonised people in the history of mental science.


Discussion/Essay Questions:

  1. How did the growth of European empires shape different sciences of the mind?
  2. What role did colonised people play in the development of mental science?
  3. ‘The history of colonial psychiatry is a challenge to the traditional Eurocentric historiography’. Discuss.

Required Readings:

Linstrum, Erik, ‘The politics of psychology in the British Empire, 1898–1960,’ Past & Present 12 (2012)

Mahone, Sloan, ‘East Africa and the Practical Problems of Empire,’ in Sloan Mahone and Megan Vaughan (eds), Psychiatry and Empire (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007)

Poskett, James, Materials of the Mind: Phrenology, Race, and the Global History of Science, 1815–1920 (University of Chicago Press, 2019), Introduction, pp. 1-18


Further Readings:

Anderson, Warwick, Deborah Jenson, and Richard Keller (eds), Unconscious Dominions: Psychoanalysis, Colonial Trauma, and Global Sovereignties(Duke University Press, 2011)

Ernst, Waltraud, Mad Tales from the Raj: Colonial Psychiatry in South Asia, 1800–58(Routledge, 1991)

Hartnack, Christiane, Psychoanalysis in Colonial India (Oxford University Press, 2001)

Heaton, Matthew, Black Skin, White Coats: Nigerian Psychiatrists, Decolonization, and the Globalization of Psychiatry (Ohio University Press, 2013)

Keller, Richard, Colonial Madness: Psychiatry in French North Africa (University of Chicago Press, 2007)

Linstrum, Erik, Ruling Minds: Psychology in the British Empire (Harvard University Press, 2016)

Mahone, Sloan and Megan Vaughan (eds), Psychiatry and Empire (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007)

McCulloch, Jock, Colonial Psychiatry and ‘The African Mind’ (Cambridge, 1995)

Mills, James, ‘The history of modern psychiatry in India, 1858-1947,’ History of Psychiatry12 (2001)

Porter, Roy (ed.), The Confinement of Insane: International Perspectives 1800–1965 (Cambridge, 2003), particularly chapters on India and Nigeria.

Poskett, James, Materials of the Mind: Phrenology, Race, and the Global History of Science, 1815–1920 (University of Chicago Press, 2019)

Rajpal, Shilpi, ‘Psychiatrists and psychiatry in late colonial India,’ The Indian Economic and Social History Review55 (2018)

Winter, Alison, Mesmerized: Powers of the Mind in Victorian Britain (University of Chicago Press, 1998), chapter 8 ‘Colonizing Sensations in Victorian India’