War and the psyche

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Readers who consult the online Archives and Manuscripts sources guides may have noticed some recent changes to the guides on war, medicine and health. In order to streamline these somewhat, the content has been rearranged, into War, Medicine, and Health: general and guides relating specifically to World War I and World War II, and a significant amount of material relating to psychiatric and psychological issues to do with warfare pulled out to create a new guide, War, Psychiatry and Psychology.

'Shell Shock': image from 'The Fourth' magazine. Wellcome Image No: L0046100

‘Shell Shock’: image from ‘The Fourth’ magazine by J.P.D. Hewatt 1917. Wellcome Image No: L0046100

We already held some important materials on these latter subjects, such as the observations by Charles McMoran Wilson, later Lord Moran, of the new phenomenon of ‘shell shock’ on the Western Front during the Great War, material in the Bowlby and Winnicott papers on the effects of wartime evacuation on children, records of S H Foulkes’ work with the ‘Northfield Experiment’ during the Second World War. However, a number of more recent acquisitions, such as the papers of H V Dicks relating to his involvement in ‘de-Nazification’ of Germany after the war and his writings on the psychology of totalitarianism, and several collections of papers of individual psychologists received along with the records of the British Psychological Society have additionally developed our strengths in this area and this is reflected in the creation of  this new guide.

This turns out to be especially timely given the news of this forthcoming event, Psychoanalysis in the Age of Totalitarianism, bringing together historians, social theorists and psychoanalysts to explore the impact of the Second World War and totalitarianism on psychoanalysis, and of psychoanalysis on the understanding of the war and totalitarian systems. Organised under the auspices of the Institute of Psychoanalysis, the Pears Institute for the study of Antisemitism (Birkbeck, University of London), Birkbeck College, University of London, and the Centre for Psychoanalytic Studies of the University of Essex, it will take place in the Wellcome Collection Conference Centre, 21-22 September 2012.

Lesley Hall

Lesley Hall

Lesley Hall, FRHistS, PhD, DipAA, has been an archivist at the Wellcome since 1979. She has published extensively on the history of sexuality and gender in Britain in the 19th and 20th centuries, given many talks and conference presentations, and featured on radio and television. Further details can be found at her website.

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