Neurotic tendencies

Workplace and suburban neurosis in the interwar period

in Feeling the strain
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This chapter examines how experiences of stress became the subject of specific research interest in the very different contexts of work and home during the interwar period. It explores how workers’ nervous conditions were understood, by both employer and employee, and argues that the importance of work in the construction of personal identity and social and economic life contributed to the difficulty of admitting to stress and fostered a stoicism that meant people simply endured whatever mental suffering arose. Personal accounts illustrate contemporary attitudes towards work, duty and responsibility, while early Medical Research Council research reveals employer attitudes focused on productivity and identification of suboptimal workers. It is argued that concerns about domestic neuroticism, seen in Taylor’s suburban neurosis diagnosis and the work of the Pioneer Health Centre, brought to light not only specifically gendered explanations of stress, but also changing conceptions of the home that contributed towards domestic strain.

Feeling the strain

A cultural history of stress in twentieth-century Britain

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