Work, psychiatry and society, c. 1750–2015

Editor: Waltraud Ernst

This edited book offers a systematic critical appraisal of the uses of work and work therapy in psychiatric institutions across the globe, from the late eighteenth to the end of the twentieth century. Contributors explore the daily routine in psychiatric institutions within the context of the wider socio-political and economic conditions. They examine whether work was therapy, part of a regime of punishment, or a means of exploiting free labour. By focusing on mental patients’ day-to-day life in closed institutions, the authors fill a gap in the history of psychiatric regimes. The geographic scope is wide, ranging from Northern America to Japan, India and Western as well as Eastern Europe, and authors engage with broader historical questions, such as the impact of colonialism and communism, the effect of the World Wars, and issues of political governance and care in the community schemes.

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‘For all the sophistication of the arguments put forward, the introduction and the chapters that follow are very easy to read, making them accessible to a wide audience and hopefully a core text for students being introduced to the history of asylums.'
Pamela Dale, University of Exeter
The Economic History Review
August 2016

‘In this volume, Waltraud Ernst has brought together 17 essays with great skill. Together, they demonstrate how 'work' with its myriad meanings has different significance – treatment, punishment, reform, exploitation, empowerment – within shifting conditions brought about by colonialism, revolution, war, economic change, and new medical ideologies. The collection makes a great temporal and geographical sweep across the entire modern period to the present day, addressing attitudes and praxis in North America, Japan, India, and Western and Eastern Europe…It will be of interest to historians of medicine and psychiatry, labour and economics, as well as to sociologists, anthropologists, and healthcare professionals.'
Louise Hide, Birkbeck, UCL
History of the human sciences
November 2016

‘Work, Psychiatry, and Society, c. 1750–2015, marks a welcome advance in the historiography of madness by placing psychiatricpatients' work as a topic of central importance that deserves further scholarly attention.'
Geoffrey Reaume
Isis Journal
June 2017

‘Overall, this volume is an eye-opener. It breaks new ground in clarifying questions of history of psychiatry by focusing on the role of work in mental-health institutions. It contains some first-rate chapters for historians of medicine and psychiatry, social and economic historians and sociologists. It will also inform students, healthcare pro­fessionals and, hopefully, the administrators of medical institutions.'
Felicitas Söhner, Universität Ulm (DE)
Gesnerus 73
May 2016


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