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Managing the Mind: Psychiatry, Psychology and British Culture, 1800-2000 - 30 credits (HS1745)

Module Tutor: Dr Tracey Loughran

Course Description

What is madness? How can we tell the difference between sanity and insanity, and who decides where this line should be drawn? These questions have been debated for centuries, and the different answers given provide a unique glimpse into past ideas of identity, agency, and the limits of freedom. At the heart of debates on madness lies the problem of what it means to be human. This module provides an introduction to transformations in the conceptualisation, treatment, and experience of mental illness in Britain over the past two centuries. Lectures provide a broad overview of key themes, including: the growth and decline of the asylum; class, gender, and madness; madness in popular culture; psychology and psychiatry in war; psychoanalysis; and critiques of psychiatric power. Seminars provide the opportunity to discuss and debate these issues in more depth, and to develop skills in analysing different historiographical approaches and different types of source material. In both lectures and seminars, topics will be placed in the context of major historiographical debates. The emphasis throughout will be on uncovering the cultural resonances of madness, psychology and psychiatry over the period; exploring changes in conceptualising mental health and illness; understanding the different perspectives on madness provided by different agents (for example psychiatrists, patients, cultural commentators, and representatives of the arts); and analysing how ideas of mind are mediated through different modes of representation.

Credits: 30

Availability of module: Not running in 2013/14

Prerequisites: N/A

Necessary for: N/A

Teaching methods

A range of teaching methods will be used in each of the sessions of the course, comprising a combination of lectures and seminar discussion of major issues. The syllabus is divided into a series of major course themes, then sub-divided into principal topics for the study of each theme.

The aim of the lectures is to provide a brief introduction to a particular topic, establishing the salient features of major course themes, identifying key issues and providing historiographical guidance. The lectures aim to provide a basic framework for understanding and should be thought of as useful starting points for further discussion and individual study. Where appropriate, handouts and other materials may be distributed to reinforce the material discussed.

The primary aim of seminars will be to generate debate and discussion amongst course participants. Seminars for each of the course topics will provide an opportunity for students to analyse and further discuss key issues and topics relating to lectures.


Students will be assessed by means of a combination of one 1000 word assessed essay [15%], one 2000 word assessed essay [35%] and one two-hour unseen written examination paper in which the student will answer two questions [50%].

Course assignments:

Assessed Essay 1 will contribute 15% of the final mark for the module. It is designed to give students the opportunity to demonstrate their ability to review evidence, draw appropriate conclusions from it and employ the formal conventions of scholarly presentation. It must be no longer than 1,000 words (excluding empirical appendices and references).

Assessed Essay 2 will contribute 35% of the final mark for the module. It is designed to give students the opportunity to demonstrate their ability to review evidence, draw appropriate conclusions from it and employ the formal conventions of scholarly presentation. It must be no longer than 2,000 words (excluding empirical appendices and references).

The Examination will take place during the second assessment period [May/June] and will consist of an unseen two hour paper that will contribute the remaining 50% of the final mark for this module. Students must write 2 answers in total.

Summary of course content

  • the rise, expansion and decline of the asylum;
  • class, gender, and madness;
  • different therapeutic approaches to madness;
  • various psychological approaches to the study of the mind. such as phrenology, hypnosis, theories of degeneration, and psychoanalysis;
  • shell-shock, trauma, and the world wars;
  • the move towards community-based forms of care across the twentieth-century;
  • anti-psychiatry and the counter-culture;
  • self-help and counselling culture;
  • the interaction between popular and professional understandings of psychology and psychiatry, including different modes of representing and studying madness and the mind.

Learning outcomes

  • demonstrate a broad and systematic knowledge of the history of psychiatry and psychology in Britain, 1800-2000;
  • express your ideas on and assessments of the social and cultural importance of psychiatry and psychology in Britain, 1800-2000;
  • identify strengths, weaknesses, problems, and/or peculiarities of alternative historical/ historiographical interpretations;
  • demonstrate an awareness of a range of relevant primary sources and an appreciation of how historians have approached them.
  • identify the nature and scope of the issues raised by the social and cultural history of psychiatry and psychology in Britain, 1800-2000;
  • evaluate the interrelation of medical, social, and institutional change in experiences of mental health and illness;
  • demonstrate an in-depth and critical understanding of concepts of medicine, science, technology, identity, and cultural construction, and how these concepts have been deployed in historical and historiographical writing on psychiatry and psychology;
  • analyse key themes and issues in the social and cultural history of psychiatry and psychology in the light of these ideas, contexts, and frameworks;
  • summarise and critically evaluate the relative merits and demerits of alternative views and interpretations about psychiatry and psychology in British culture, and evaluate their significance;
  • assess how psychological knowledge was created, disseminated, and represented in a range of forums such as medical texts, novels, films and newspapers throughout the period;
  • identify problems, assess evidence, and reach independent conclusions on the social and cultural history of psychiatry and psychology;
  • demonstrate a critical understanding of the potentialities and problems of researching and writing the history of psychiatry and psychology.

Skills that will be practised and developed

  • communicate ideas and arguments effectively, whether in class discussion or in written form, in an accurate, succinct and lucid manner.
  • formulate and justify arguments and conclusions about a range of issues, and present appropriate supporting evidence
  • an ability to modify as well as to defend their own position.
  • an  ability to think critically and challenge assumptions
  • an ability to use a range of information technology resources to assist with information retrieval and assignment presentation.
  • time management skills and an ability to independently organise their own study methods and workload.
  • work effectively with others as part of a team or group in seminar or tutorial discussions.

Suggested preparatory reading

H. Freeman (ed.), A Century of Psychiatry (London, 1999)
J. Oppenheim, “Shattered Nerves”: Doctors, Patients, and Depression in Victorian England (New York and Oxford, 1981)
R. Porter, Mind-Forg’d Manacles: A History of Madness in England from the Restoration to the Regency (London, 1987)
N. Rose, Governing the Soul: the Shaping of the Private Self (London and New York, 1989)
A. Scull, The Most Solitary of Afflictions: Madness and Society in Britain, 1700-1900 (New Haven and London, 1993)
E. Shorter, A History of Psychiatry: From the Era of the Asylum to the Age of Prozac (New York, 1997)
E. Showalter, The Female Malady: Women, Madness and English Culture, 1830-1980 (London, 1987)
M. Thomson, Psychological Subjects: Identity, Culture, and Health in Twentieth-Century Britain (Oxford, 2006)