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HIS3341 : Lunatic to Citizen? Madness and Society since 1900

  • Offered for Year: 2019/20
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Vicky Long
  • Owning School: History, Classics and Archaeology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


This module studies social responses to mental disorder in Britain over a period which saw the polarisation of sanity and madness give way to a belief that mental health and illness formed a continuum, culminating in the creation of community mental health services and the closure of psychiatric hospitals. Throughout the module, students will study different primary source materials which can be used to research the history of mental disorder and will explore the divergent interpretations advanced by different historians to account for the ways in which society - and the medical profession - has responded to mental disorder. Seminars focus on a particular topic such as treatment methods, patient perspectives, the anti-psychiatry movement of the 1960s and community care. Students will be expected to read the assigned secondary texts and primary documents in preparation for the seminars. Workshop sessions will provide students within the opportunity to work with colleagues on a project which applies historical knowledge to contemporary needs.

Outline Of Syllabus

Seminars focus on a particular topic; students will be expected to read the assigned secondary texts and primary documents in preparation for the seminars. Indicative syllabus; the precise range of topics may vary from year to year.

•       What is mental illness? Historical, philosophical and sociological perspectives
•       Madness in the local archives
•       Community care and the heritage of the asylum
•       Anti-psychiatry, mental health and the counterculture
•       The twentieth-century mental hospital: from reform to closure
•       Controversial therapies in psychiatry
•       Work and mental health
•       Mental hygiene in civilian and military populations
•       From mental deficiency to learning disability
•       Madness, race and gender
•       Life inside the asylum, c. 1900

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion551:0055:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading551:0055:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching122:0024:00Seminar
Guided Independent StudyProject work341:0034:00Individual work on contribution to group project
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops62:0012:00Group project workshop sessions; please timetable in a computer lab if possible
Guided Independent StudyStudent-led group activity201:0020:00Group work and discussion outside of timetabled project workshops
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The delivery of this stage 3 module is designed to foster student-led, engaged learning, which will take the form of a weekly two hour seminar, in which the emphasis will be upon students’ discussion of texts, debates, sources and approaches. By asking students to engage with readings which advance divergent and contradictory arguments, the module will encourage students to engage with the contested nature of historical knowledge. The module reverses the chronology of the era under study, starting with the contemporary picture and moves roughly backwards in time, detouring on route for some thematic sessions. By taking this approach, students start with events that are more familiar to them, before moving to the less familiar. Taking a conventional chronological narrative approach encourages the assumption that the history of psychiatry is inherently a history of progress. Reversing this chronology offers different perspectives on processes of change. One seminar will focus upon the types of primary sources available locally and online, encouraging students to consider the practicalities of researching the history of mental healthcare. This will assist with the group project component.

Fortnightly support workshops, facilitated by the module leader, will enable groups to update the module leader and other students on the progress of their projects, and will serve as a forum in which common issues and problems can be collectively discussed. It will give groups an opportunity to discuss findings to date, and to agree individual and collective responsibilities for project work.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written Examination1201A50N/A
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Report1M50Individual 2,500 word report on group project, including footnotes but excluding the bibliography and appendices.
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Oral Presentation1MGroups will give presentations on their progress during the workshop sessions as a means of gaining feedback
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The exam assesses students’ knowledge of the history of mental disorder, of debates in the field, and of theoretical and conceptual approaches applied to studying this topic. It also tests students’ abilities to structure their argument and write clearly under pressure.

The group project requires students to incorporate research into the local dimensions of one of the seminar topics, drawing upon local archival materials and other primary sources. This encourages students to situate academic debates within the context of their local communities. Students are asked for the project to produce an output based upon their research which would be useful for an external body; for example, an education pack which could be used in schools. This encourages students to consider how they can apply their research skills in a real world context. In sum, the project component fosters engaged and personalised learning, as well as building team working skills.

Reading Lists