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Cultural and social history of psychiatry

Engstrom, Eric J

doi: 10.1097/YCO.0b013e328312674f
History and philosophy: Edited by KWM (Bill) John Z. Sadler and Paul Hoff

Purpose of review The purpose of this review is to highlight recent English language literature in the cultural and social history of psychiatry. It considers publications from 2007 and early 2008, as well as a few important older works that have not yet been reviewed in this journal.

Recent findings Cultural and social historians of psychiatry are incorporating a growing number of historical objects into their narratives and developing new methodological techniques that can accommodate the full diversity of psychiatry's hybrid past. Increasingly, these histories are coming to be written in terms of multilateral and multivalent interactions with various other disciplines and organizations. In crafting these new narratives, historians face a confusing panoply of historical agents and events, reminding them that like the discipline of psychiatry itself, theirs too is a heterologic undertaking, grappling to understand and explain the otherness of psychiatry's past.

Summary This review surveys the scholarly literature in several specific areas that have attracted the attention of historians of psychiatry in recent years. In particular, it considers work in the history of psychiatric institutions, borderline disorders, 20th-century somatic therapies, military psychiatry, and colonial psychiatry.

Institute for the History of Medicine, Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany

Correspondence to Eric J. Engstrom, PhD, Institute for the History of Medicine, ZHGB (Humboldt University - FU Berlin), Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Ziegelstrasse 5-9, 10117 Berlin, Germany Tel: +49 30 450 529 019; fax: +49 30 450 529 901; e-mail:; web:

© 2008 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.