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Sherman, M.H. (1971). Psychiatry and its history. George Mora and Jeanne L. Brand (Eds.). Springfield, Illinois: Charles C Thomas, 1970. 283 pp.. Psychoanal. Rev., 58(2):321-323.

(1971). Psychoanalytic Review, 58(2):321-323

Psychiatry and its history. George Mora and Jeanne L. Brand (Eds.). Springfield, Illinois: Charles C Thomas, 1970. 283 pp.

Review by:
Murray H. Sherman

This volume is a transcription of articles presented in April 1967 at a Workshop on Methodological Problems in the History of Psychiatry, sponsored by Yale University and supported by an NIMH research grant. The participants were given a common series of questions to which their essays are oriented, and the resulting volume reflects a meaningful cohesiveness and structure.

Several participants note the fallacy of writing history under the influence of “presentism,” or the conviction that the present time represents an apotheosis of significance for which all prior history has been little more than a backdrop. Other writers address themselves to the question of whether the history of psychiatry should be written by psychiatrists versed in history or by historians who have been counseled by psychiatrists. Mora notes that psychiatrists have a “strategic advantage” by reason of their intimate knowledge of disease entities and treatment procedures, and he also quotes Viktor von Weizsaecker on the particular “psychic logic” of the psychoanalyst. However, the consensus of the conference in this respect was noted by several participants (Eric Carlson, Ilza Veith, Erwin Ackerknecht) who feel that the history of psychiatry is essentially much broader than the context of the psychiatrist-patient interaction and should include the full scene and climate of any particular period of history. Ackerknecht notes that it is far more important to study what psychiatrists do than what they write about; there is often a wide discrepancy between the two.

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