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Ruff, W. Levy, J.M. (1972). Freud and the Myth of British Citizenship. Psychoanal. Rev., 59(1):111-113.

(1972). Psychoanalytic Review, 59(1):111-113


Freud and the Myth of British Citizenship

William Ruff, Ph.D. and Judith M. Levy, Ph.D.

Ernest Jones once wrote of Freud and the stories invented about him: “The mythopoeic faculty of the surrounding world, always so busy with Freud's personality—it has certainly not ceased with his death—pursued him to London.”3 One popular myth, or improbable story, asserts that Freud died a British citizen. In 1947, Helen Walker Puner,4 in Freud, His Life and His Mind wrote, “The government put an official stamp on his welcome by granting him British nationality”; and in 1952, Rachel Baker in Sigmund Freud 1 said, “The British government granted him honorary citizenship.” As recently as 1965 we again come upon this “fact,” this time with some embellishment by the eminent historian A. J. P. Taylor, in his English History 1914-1945, Volume 15 of the Oxford History of England.5 Professor Taylor states: “After the incorporation of Austria into Germany, Sigmund Freud, founder of psychoanalysis, was admitted into England with none of the usual formalities, and, against all the rules, was made a British citizen the next day.” A note reads, “Legally, naturalization was granted at the unfettered discretion of the home secretary. The invariable practice was to require five years residence and evidence of good character.”

However, Ernest Jones3 gives a different account in his definitive Life and Work of Sigmund Freud: “One great wish of Freud's was destined never to be gratified: to die a naturalized British subject. Commander Locker-Lampson raised the question in the House of Commons, but the Government refused to shorten the normal waiting period, presumably lest it set a troublesome precedent.”

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