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A History of Psychiatry: From the Era of the Asylum to the Age of Prozac
Synopses & Reviews
"[This book] provides a clear portrait of the evolution of psychiatric thinking over the past two centuries . . . sure to create an intellectual controversy . . . no one will be able to ignore the powerful argument." — Gerald N. Grob Henry E. Sigerist Professor of the History of Medicine, Rutgers University
"Written in a popular, lively, and often journalistic style [that] enunciates clear ideas and brave evaluations. . . . Shorter tells his story with immense panache, narrative clarity, and genuinely deep erudition." — Roy Porter Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine
"A splendid work; this sparkling history is always strong, formidably rational, and clear." — Harold Merskey, DM Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry University of Western Ontario
"Zealot-researchers have seized the history of psychiatry to illustrate how their pet bugaboos—be they capitalism, patriarchy, or psychiatry itself—have converted protest into illness, locking into asylums those who otherwise would be challenging the established order. Although these trendy notions have attained great currency among intellectuals, they are incorrect in that they do not correspond to what happened in history." — Edward Shorter
With these words, celebrated historian Edward Shorter fires the opening salvo of his provocative retelling of the history of psychiatry. Writing not as an apologist, but as a clear-sighted and exacting scholar, he traces the evolution of one of medicine's most volatile disciplines, from its wild and woolly beginning amidst the din of eighteenth-century madhouses, through its more decorous twentieth-century incarnation among the soft lights of Park Avenue consulting offices, to what Shorter considers its present triumph as a bona fide medical specialty.
With cinematic scope and precision, Shorter shows us the harsh, farcical, and inspiring realities of society's changing attitudes toward its mentally ill and the efforts of generations of scientists and physicians to ease their suffering. He takes us inside the eighteenth-century asylums, with their restraints and beatings, and guides us through the landscaped boulevards of the spas and rest homes where the "nervous disorders" of the Victorian elite were treated with bromides, buttermilk, and kind words. He leads us through the teeming "snake pits" of early twentieth-century public mental hospitals and the gleaming laboratories of today's pharmaceutical cartels.
Writing in the tradition of the best social history, Shorter delineates the major scientific and cultural forces that shaped the development of psychiatry. Along the way, he paints vivid portraits of the leading figures—names such as Esquirol and Pinel, Krafft-Ebing and Kraepelin, Freud and Horney—who peopled the history of psychiatry. He pulls no punches in assessing the roles these men and women played in advancing our understanding of the biological origins of mental illness, or sidetracking psychiatry into pseudoscience, metaphysics, and fanaticism.
An enthralling account of psychiatry from the era of the asylum to the age of Prozac, A History of Psychiatry is must reading for all behavioral scientists and for anyone interested in the history of a fascinating and influential medical specialty.
Book News Annotation:
A social history outlining the major scientific and cultural forces that shaped the development of psychiatry. Shorter (history of medicine, U. of Toronto) traces the evolution of psychiatry with an elegant writing style, portraying 18th century madhouses, the nervous disorder spas of the Victorian elite, the "snake pits" of early 20th century public mental hospitals, the cool decorum of psychoanalytical therapies, and the modern agendas of pharmaceutical cartels. Along the way, the author describes the leading figures in the field and astutely assesses their contributions to understanding mental illness or sidetracking its advancement into pseudoscience ad metaphysics. Includes photographs.
Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
"PPPP . . . To compress 200 years of psychiatric theory and practice into a compelling and coherent narrative is a fine achievement . . . . What strikes the reader [most] are Shorter's storytelling skills, his ability to conjure up the personalities of the psychiatrists who shaped the discipline and the conditions under which they and their patients lived."--Ray Monk The Mail on Sunday magazine, U.K.
"An opinionated, anecdote-rich history. . . . While psychiatrists may quibble, and Freudians and other psychoanalysts will surely squawk, those without a vested interest will be thoroughly entertained and certainly enlightened."--Kirkus Reviews.
"Shorter tells his story with immense panache, narrative clarity, and genuinely deep erudition."--Roy Porter Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine.
In A History of Psychiatry, Edward Shorter shows us the harsh, farcical, and inspiring realities of society's changing attitudes toward and attempts to deal with its mentally ill and the efforts of generations of scientists and physicians to ease their suffering. He paints vivid portraits of psychiatry's leading historical figures and pulls no punches in assessing their roles in advancing or sidetracking our understanding of the origins of mental illness.
Shorter also identifies the scientific and cultural factors that shaped the development of psychiatry. He reveals the forces behind the unparalleled sophistication of psychiatry in Germany during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as well as the emergence of the United States as the world capital of psychoanalysis.
This engagingly written, thoroughly researched, and fiercely partisan account is compelling reading for anyone with a personal, intellectual, or professional interest in psychiatry.
About the Author
EDWARD SHORTER is Hannah Professor in the History of Medicine at the University of Toronto. He is the author of more than ten books, including the widely acclaimed The Making of the Modern Family.
Table of Contents
The Birth of Psychiatry.
The Asylum Era.
The First Biological Psychiatry.
The Psychoanalytic Hiatus.
The Second Biological Psychiatry.
From Freud to Prozac.
What Our Readers Are Saying