University home |A-Z|

Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine

Madness and society

HSTM30832 (10-credit); HSTM40332 (20-credit); UCOL30832 (10-credit); UCOL40332 (20-credit)

Semester Two, Tuesdays, 11.00-13.00

Contact: Dr Elizabeth Toon & Dr Carsten Timmermann


To explore a selection of topics in the social, cultural, intellectual, and institutional history of psychiatry in Britain from 1800 to the present. Students will become familiar with the main ideas, figures, and events in the history of views about the nature and management of madness, and the changing social meanings and context of mental illness. And they will develop an understanding of the history of psychological medicine as a case study in the interaction of science, society, and culture.

Intended Learning Outcomes

Students will be able:

  • to show an appreciation of historical approaches to medicine
  • to demonstrate a knowledge of the chronology of changes in the understanding and management of mental illness since 1800
  • to have a critical appreciation of the debates surrounding the reasons for particular policies and treatments for mental illness
  • to take part in informed discussions on these topics and issues
  • to reflect critically on the changing role of psychiatry and the cultural meanings of madness

Lecture Content

  • The Birth of the Asylum
  • The Expansion of the Asylum
  • Insanity, Crime and Responsibility in the Nineteenth Century
  • Theorising Insanity: Minds and Bodies, 1830-1900
  • Gender, Madness and Society in the Late 19th and Early 20th-Century
  • Freud, Psychoanalysis, and Culture, c. 1890-1940
  • Shell Shock, Psychiatry, and War
  • The Brain, the Body, and the Mind, 1900-1960
  • Therapy and the Post-war Institution
  • The Normal and the Maladjusted Child
  • The Psychiatrisation of Everyday Life?


10 credit unit (HSTM30832) - Essay (50%) and 2 hour examination (50%)
20 credit unit (HSTM40332) - Short essay (25%); 2 hour examination (25%); long essay (50%)


students may ask questions at any time during lectures and seminars. Teaching staff can usually answer specific queries by email or during office hours, and will provide contact details in the course handbook or at lectures. All submitted coursework will be returned with annotations and an assessment sheet explaining the mark awarded. In addition, students on the 20-credit version receive comments through individual supervision meetings.

Employability Skills

General Statement- Verbal communication skills are developed in seminars and writing skills in assignments; preparing for seminars and essays uses qualitative research skills and answering questions; initiative is developed through the learning demands of the course; the course requires organisation skills to meet deadlines and to coordinate the different learning resources used; seminars require working as part of group, adapting to different demands and negotiating with other students.
Oral communication - Students take part in informed discussions of the topics covered.
Written communication - Students receive feedback on a coursework essay. 20 credit students also produce a long essay/project.
Group/team working - Students take part in group discussions and debates relating to the issues and topics covered.
Project management - 20-credit students are required to submit a written project.
Innovation/Creativity - Students have the opportunity to be innovative in terms of how they address their essay topic.
Research - Research required for essays and projects. Students learn to search, access and interpret online resources.
Analytical skills - Students encouraged to reflect critically on the topics covered.



Recommended Reading

  • Shorter, E A History of Psychiatry: From the Era of the Asylum to the Age of Prozac 1998 John Wiley & Sons – suggested purchase

Teaching Staff

Dr Carsten Timmermann & Dr Elizabeth Toon


A recent copy of the course outline is available to view (pdf). Please note that course content may change in the next academic year.