Rab Houston’s ‘History of Psychiatry in Britain since the Renaissance’ Podcast Series

rabhouston.pngThe ‘History of Psychiatry in Britain since the Renaissance’ is the first of two series of weekly podcasts beginning in July 2016. The author of these podcasts is Professor Rab Houston: a social historian of Britain who has published extensively on the history of mental disorders and their cultural, political, legal, and economic context, especially during the period 1500-1850.

This is the first of two series of weekly podcasts beginning in July 2016. The first series of 44 podcasts covers England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland during the last 500 years, looking at continuities and changes in how mental illness was understood and treated, and at the radical shifts in systems of caring for those who were either mad or mentally handicapped during the last two centuries. The coverage is broad, ranging from how mental problems were identified and described in the past through changing ideas about their causes and developing therapeutic practices to important themes such as the reasons behind the emergence of psychiatry as a profession and the rise and fall of asylums as a location of care. The series explores the history of suicide, madness in the media, psychiatry and the law, relations between medical practitioners and patients, and it assesses evidence that the incidence of mental illness has changed over time. It begins and ends with discussion of the value of history and the vital lessons that can be learned by studying the past, not only for psychiatrists, but for all healthcare professionals, welfare policy makers, and indeed anyone with an interest in mental health.

The aims of the podcasts are to provide a balanced and historically reliable account of the development of both medical and social understandings of madness, against a background of dramatically changing political, scientific, economic, legal, and cultural environments. In addition, it wishes to inform all branches of medicine and social work about the history of one increasingly important branch of their profession: mental health. The podcast also hopes to raise awareness of attitudes towards mental health and the care of those suffering from mental disorders or disabilities, not only among the caring professions, but also the general public, including sufferers and those close to them. The significance of a knowledge of history to the makers of policy on social welfare will be emphasised, through an exploration of what lay and professional people did to help the mad over the last five centuries. History provides concrete questions, comparisons, and alternatives, and helps us to arrive at workable solutions.

The second series of 26 podcasts will start broadcasting early in 2017. These podcasts will be entitled ‘The voice of the mad in Britain from the Renaissance to the present day’. The series will feature extracts from the autograph writings of those with mental problems or from podcasttheir reported speech, to explore a range of mental disorders ranging from autism and depression to schizophrenia and obsessive stalking. Through transcribed original historical manuscripts and printed sources, the series documents individual, family, and social crises related to mental disorders, including suicide, crimes of violence, protection of vulnerable adults, religious mania, and admission to lunatic asylums and the experience of living in them. These podcasts will give a sense of what it was like for sufferers to cope with being mad or being thought mad. Moreover, they will show how those who came into contact with mad people coped in their turn with words, moods, and acts, which they struggled to understand.

Every week, new episodes of the podcast series will be released. You can visit the website or follow the project on Facebook and Twitter for the weekly podcast updates and more information on the history of psychiatry since the Renaissance.

About standrewshistory
With over forty full time members of staff researching and teaching on European, American and Asian history from the dawn of the Middle Ages to the present day, the School of History at the University of St Andrews has one of the finest faculty and diverse teaching programmes of any School of History in the English speaking world. The School boasts expertise in Mediaeval and Modern History, from S cotland to Byzantium and the Americas to the Middle East and South Asia.Thematic interests include religious history, urban history, transnationalism, historiography and nationalism. The School of History prides itself on small group teaching and tutorials allowing for in depth study and supervision tailored to secure the best from each student. Cutting edge research combined with teaching excellence offer a dynamic and intellectually stimulating environment for the study of History.

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