Sources in the History of Psychiatry, from 1800 to the Present  book cover
1st Edition

Sources in the History of Psychiatry, from 1800 to the Present

ISBN 9780367541217
Published April 18, 2022 by Routledge
280 Pages 17 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

This book offers a general introduction to historical sources in the history of psychiatry, delving into the range of sources that can be used to investigate this dynamic and exciting field.

The chapters in this volume deal with physical sources that might be encountered in the archive, such as asylum casebooks, artwork, material artefacts, post-mortem records, more general types of source including medical journals, literature, public enquiries, and key themes within the field such as feminist sources, activist and survivor sources. Offering practical advice and examples for the novice, as well as insightful suggestions for the experienced scholar, the authors provide worked-through examples of how various source types can be used and exploited and reflect productively on the limits and constraints of different kinds of source material. In so doing it presents readers with a comprehensive guide on how to ‘read’ such sources to research and write the history of psychiatry.

Methodically rigorous, clear and accessible, this is a vital reference for students just starting out within the field through to more experienced scholars experimenting with new and unfamiliar sources in the history of medicine and history of psychiatry more specifically.

Chapters 4, 8, 9, 10, and 13 of this book are available for free in PDF format as Open Access from the individual product page at They have been made available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivatives 4.0 license.

Table of Contents


Chris Millard and Jennifer Wallis

1. Asylum Records: Files, Notes, Casebooks, and Patient Registers

Cris Sarg, Cheryl McGeachan, and Chris Philo

2. Photographic Sources in the History of Psychiatry

Beatriz Pichel

3. Using Asylum Post-Mortem Records in the History of Psychiatry

Jennifer Wallis

4. Psychiatry’s Material Culture: The Symbolic Power of the Straitjacket

Sarah Chaney

5. Medical Journals

Chris Millard

6. Experiments in Life: Literature’s Contribution to the History of Psychiatry

Melissa Dickson

7. Sources and Methods in the Histories of Colonial Psychiatry

Sloan Mahone

8. Legal Sources in the History of Psychiatry

Janet Weston

9. Removing the ‘Veil of Secrecy’: Public Inquiries as Sources in the History of Psychiatry, 1960s–1970s

Louise Hide

10. Activist Sources and the Survivor Movement

Steffan Blayney

11. Patients, Practitioners, and Protestors: Feminist Sources and Approaches in the History of Psychiatry

Sarah Crook

12. Using Art in the History of Psychiatry

Nicholas Tromans

13. Using Film in the History of Psychiatry

Katie Joice

14. Oral History in the History of Psychiatry

Victoria Hoyle

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Chris Millard is Senior Lecturer in the History of Medicine and Medical Humanities at the University of Sheffield, UK. He is interested in the history of self-harm, illness deception, child abuse, and the uses of ‘personal experience’ in scholarly writing.

Jennifer Wallis is Lecturer in the History of Science and Medicine, and Medical Humanities Teaching Fellow, at Imperial College London, UK. Her publications include Investigating the Body in the Victorian Asylum (2017) and the co-authored volume Anxious Times: Medicine & Modernity in Nineteenth-Century Britain (2019).


'Over the last decade the scope of the history of psychiatry has expanded significantly, with a growing amount of material available through which to understand the contested politics, treatments, and lived experiences of mental illness. In this volume, Chris Millard and Jennifer Wallis bring together an outstanding collection of researchers to map out these new territories. Together they have created an indispensable guide for practitioners, students, historians, policy makers, and family researchers exploring the complex and often obscure roots of our current understandings of mental health.'

Rhodri Hayward, Queen Mary University of London, UK

'This book is an indispensable resource for anyone writing on the history of mental health, from students and academics to those writing local, family, and survivor histories. Chris Millard and Jennifer Wallis have assembled a Who’s Who of current experts in the field to guide us through institutional and medical sources for the history of psychiatry. But this collection goes beyond the clinical territory, to include activist and radical histories, literary sources, and the sensitivities and ethics of oral histories. By incorporating the voice of lived experience and marginalised individuals, this handbook will help us move towards a more democratic and representative history of mental health.'

Sarah Marks, Birkbeck, University of London, UK

'Chris Millard and Jennifer Wallis have created the first port of call for any historian interested in doing original research in the history of psychiatry. Featuring contributions from historians doing innovative, cutting-edge research, Sources in the History of Psychiatry will help historians from all career stages navigate the many fascinating primary sources that can reveal how mental health has been experienced and understood since 1800.'

Matthew Smith, University of Strathclyde, UK

'Given the growing interest in the history of mental illness and the institutions dedicated to looking after mental patients in the past, this is a timely and incredibly useful book. With their overviews and illustrative examples, the chapters in this collection show readers where sources can be found and demonstrate how these can be turned into engaging histories. Whether you are an academic teaching "Madness and Society", a student studying the history of mental health, or an amateur historian interested in the history of your local mental hospital, this book is for you.'

Carsten Timmerman, University of Manchester, UK