Category Archives: Remembering

The relative consuming disease

The Global Mail has an amazing story about how the last treks to find cases of kuru – a cannabalism-related brain disease – have been completed. Kuru was passed on by eating the brains of dead relatives – a long finished tradition of the Fore people in Papua New Guinea – and it infected new […]

Letter from the mental states of America

Alistair Cooke presented the longest running radio show in history. The BBC’s Letter from America was a weekly report, where Cooke reflected on life and news in the United States. It ran for just shy of 58 years. Despite the massive ‘psychologisation’ of society during the years Cooke was broadcasting, from 1946 to 2004 no […]

Interviews with interrogators

Author Dominic Streatfeild interviewed many trained military, intelligence and police interrogators for his book Brainwash and I’ve just realised he’s put the full text of the interviews online. They’re in equal measures fascinating, disturbing and sometimes worryingly relevant, as the ‘war on terror’ still relies on many of the same physical coercion techniques used in […]

Let slip the coins of war

A fascinating short excerpt from a new study that estimates war and population change in Ancient Rome from finds of stashed coins. It turns out that the coin hoards are a surprisingly good guide to human behaviour: The reasons for this correlation are not hard to fathom. People tend to hide their valuables in times […]

The luxury of hindsight

“It’s no secret” says the promotional material “that several professional footballers live in Repton Park”, presumably unaware that one of London’s most luxurious housing developments used to be a psychiatric hospital. Repton Park is the new name for what was originally called the London County Lunatic Asylum and was eventually renamed Claybury Hospital before the […]

Growing up in Broadmoor

Novelist Patrick McGrath talks about his childhood as the son of a psychiatrist growing up in the grounds of Broadmoor – one of Britain’s highest security psychiatric hospitals – in an article for Intelligent Life. Broadmoor Hospital has a special and undeserved place in the British psyche – stereotyped as ‘the real-life equivalent of Arkham […]

The inner object

The Lancet has a wonderful article on how medicine has understood how strange objects have ended up in the body and how this has influenced our understanding of the body and behaviour. The piece notes that cases where people have swallowed or inserted foreign bodies into themselves have been important for surgery and even anatomy […]

A comment on Szasz

One of the most interesting commentaries I’ve ever read on Thomas Szasz, the long-time critic of psychiatry who recently passed away, has been left as a comment in the obituary we recently published. The comment is by ‘Aporeticist’ and he or she is clearly a fierce critic of modern psychiatry (to the point of indulging […]

Thomas Szasz has left the building

The brilliant, infuriating, persistent, renegade psychiatrist Thomas Szasz has died. Szasz is usually associated with anti-psychiatry but he rejected the label and really had nothing in common with the likes of R.D Laing, David Cooper and the rest. You can see this in his work. He had two main arguments. The first was that the […]

Let there be light, finally

A documentary on the trauma of war, banned by the US government for more than 30 years, has found its way onto YouTube as a freely viewable video. During World War Two, legendary director John Huston, then a fresh face in Hollywood, was commissioned to make three propaganda films for the US Army. The third […]

The kings of Kingsley Hall

The Observer has an article on some of the residents of R.D. Laing’s chaos-as-therapy residential centre at Kingsley Hall, five decades on. The idea was that people with psychosis and therapists would live together in a therapeutic environment and effect change without the use of medical drugs. Residents could ‘live out’ their delusions and come […]

A traditional IRA welcome to the sociologist

An amazing description of how sociologists who wanted to do field studies in Belfast during the height of The Troubles were put through some seemingly routine but terrifying vetting by the IRA to check they were up to the job. The piece is from an article by Lorraine Dowler, who starts by recounting a tale […]

A dark and complex past

In a story that could be the plot for a film, one of the world’s pioneering anthropologists has been found to have been a member of both the Nazi SS and the French resistance during the Second World War. Gerardo Reichel-Dolmatoff retains legendary status in anthropology and particularly in Colombia, where he first lived with […]

Consciousness after decapitation

How long is a severed head conscious for? The question has troubled students of the human body for centuries and generated countless, possibly mythical stories. History of medicine blog The Chirurgeon’s Apprentice has finally looked through the records to find out which of the accounts are based in blood-curdling fact. A common tale involves someone […]

A very modern trauma

Posttraumatic stress disorder is one of the defining disorders of modern psychiatry. Although first officially accepted as a diagnosis in the early 1980s, many believe that it has always been with us, but two new studies suggest that this unlikely to be the case – it may be a genuinely modern reaction to trauma. The […]

Projecting Nabokov

American Scholar has an excellent article on the use of psychology in the novels of Vladimir Nabokov – most famous as the author of Lolita. As is now standard for literary criticism the article includes lots of florid prose and a spurious reference to ‘mirror neurons‘, but get past the flouncing and it’s a brilliant […]

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