A History of Psychiatry: From the Era of the Asylum to the Age of Prozac

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Wiley, 1997 - Medical - 436 pages
2 Reviews
"PPPP . . . To compress 200 years of psychiatric theory and practice into a compelling and coherent narrative is a fine achievement . . . . What strikes the reader [most] are Shorter's storytelling skills, his ability to conjure up the personalities of the psychiatrists who shaped the discipline and the conditions under which they and their patients lived."--Ray Monk The Mail on Sunday magazine, U.K.

"An opinionated, anecdote-rich history. . . . While psychiatrists may quibble, and Freudians and other psychoanalysts will surely squawk, those without a vested interest will be thoroughly entertained and certainly enlightened."--Kirkus Reviews.

"Shorter tells his story with immense panache, narrative clarity, and genuinely deep erudition."--Roy Porter Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine.

In A History of Psychiatry, Edward Shorter shows us the harsh, farcical, and inspiring realities of society's changing attitudes toward and attempts to deal with its mentally ill and the efforts of generations of scientists and physicians to ease their suffering. He paints vivid portraits of psychiatry's leading historical figures and pulls no punches in assessing their roles in advancing or sidetracking our understanding of the origins of mental illness.

Shorter also identifies the scientific and cultural factors that shaped the development of psychiatry. He reveals the forces behind the unparalleled sophistication of psychiatry in Germany during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as well as the emergence of the United States as the world capital of psychoanalysis.

This engagingly written, thoroughly researched, and fiercely partisan account is compelling reading for anyone with a personal, intellectual, or professional interest in psychiatry.

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A history of psychiatry: from the era of the asylum to the age of Prozac

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The view of psychiatry held by both insiders and the general public has changed considerably in the past few decades, in ways that Shorter (From the Mind into the Body, LJ 11/1/93) both acknowledges ... Read full review

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I found this book to be very insightful and it built my foundation on the history of psychiatry. Needless to say it fills in some gaping holes left by introductory and intermediate psychology textbooks.
I noticed another reviewer refer to this work as Pop history, but I would defend Shorter (Professor at University of Toronto) as an academic in this case. His notations are meticulous and this is an example of scholarship; not pop lit.
That being said, there are certainly instances in this text where Shorter's interpretations and opinions concerning the philosophy of psychiatry shine through (I particularly liked his treatment of the Quaker 'Moral Treatment' and his criticisms of the medical model of psychiatry) but he's not exactly plotting with Tom Cruise and Scientologists.
Do you care about psychiatry? Are you considering a career in public health, mental health, medicine, or psychology? If so, reading this book is critical to building an understanding of mankind's struggle and ultimate inability to cure mental illness in the last 250 years. If you come into reading this book thinking that the solution to mental illness is simple and comes in pill form, you're in for a rude awakening. Even if you already know better than that, there is much to be gained by looking at the seemingly random history of psychiatry and the competing goals of curing vs. treating mental illness.

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About the author (1997)

EDWARD SHORTER, PhD, is Hannah Professor in the History of Medicine at the University of Toronto. He is the author of ten books, including the international bestseller The Making of the Modern Family and a two-volume history of psychosomatic illness.

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