School of Humanities and Social Science,
The University of Newcastle
2012, Semester 1
Held in the Cultural Collections (near the Information Desk)
Level 2, Auchmuty Library, Callaghan Campus
Friday 1st June, 10:00am, followed by morning tea
Dr Elizabeth Roberts-Pedersen,
University of Western Sydney
“Some measure of revolution”: physical treatments for war neurosis in Britain, 1939-1945
During the Second World War, thousands of British service personnel were treated for ‘war neurosis’ in the psychiatric wards of military and civilian hospitals in Britain and overseas. While historians of psychiatry have tended to emphasize the rise of ‘therapeutic communities’ during this period as a new and innovative means of rehabilitating neurotic service personnel, less attention has been given to the widespread use of what medical practitioners termed ‘physical treatments’ to mitigate neurotic symptoms.
In this paper I argue that the wartime adoption of drug therapies, insulin comas, convulsive therapies and prefrontal leucotomies for the treatment of neurotic conditions holds implications not only for the ways in which we understand the development of psychopharmacology and the ‘biological turn’ in psychiatry in the latter half of the twentieth century, but for our conceptualization of the problematic relationship between psychiatric theory and psychiatric practice in wartime.