SHE Level 4
SCQF Credit Points 20.00
ECTS Credit Points 10.00
Module Code MHV324416
Module Leader Fiona Skillen
School Glasgow School for Business and Society
Subject History
  • A (September start)

Summary of Content

This module, informed by the ongoing research of the module leader in this field, studies social responses to mental disorder in Britain over a period which saw the nineteenth-century 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 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 problem of stigma, the anti-psychiatry movement of the 1960s and community care. Students are required to read the assigned secondary texts in preparation for the seminars. Summary of how PRME-related issues / topics are covered in this module: This module encourages students to consider how industry and the economy have historically shaped experiences of, and responses to, mental disorder. It interrogates the argument that industrialisation precipitated the institutionalisation of the mad, and it asks whether efforts to employ psychiatric patients in forms of work have been therapeutic, or exploitative.


Indicative syllabus; the precise range of topics may vary from year to year. Weekly seminars: 1. What is mental illness? Historical, philosophical and sociological perspectives 2. The emergence of the lunatic asylum 3. Asylum spaces and patient voices 4. Madness, race and gender 5. Mental hygiene in civilian and military populations 6. Physical therapies and social psychiatry 7. Work is therapy? Mental health, industry and the economy. 8. Mental illness, stigma and the public 9. Anti-psychiatry: mental health and the counterculture 10. Community care: rhetoric and reality 11. Madness in the local archives Fortnightly project workshops, including a presentation session.

Learning Outcomes

On completion of the module, students should be able to demonstrate:1 Knowledge and understanding of the history of mental disorder in Britain since 1850;2 Familiarity with theoretical and conceptual approaches to mental disorder from a range of disciplinary perspectives3 Knowledge of the history of mental health care in Glasgow and/or the surrounding region.

Teaching / Learning Strategy

The delivery of this honours level module is designed to foster student-led, engaged learning, which will take the form of a weekly two hour seminar. These seminars will include some presentations from the module leader on key themes, concepts, debates and methodologies. The module leader will also provide a summary of the main points discussed at the end of each session. However, the emphasis will be upon students' discussion of texts, debates, sources and approaches: students will take responsibility for running the seminars, facilitated by the module leader. 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. To introduce students to the practicalities of researching the history of mental healthcare, and to provide an overview of the types of records available locally, the module tutor will arrange for a visit to the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Archives. Students will work in small groups on a project. This project will be characterised by two features. First, it will incorporate research into the local dimensions of one of the seminar topics, drawing upon local archival materials and other primary sources. This will encourage students to situate academic debates within the context of their local community. Second, the students will be asked to produce an output based upon this research which would be useful to an external body, for example an education pack which could be used in schools. This will encourage students to consider how they can apply their research skills in a real world context. In sum, the project component will foster engaged and personalised learning, allowing students to apply historical research to real-world contexts. Fortnightly support workshops, facilitated by the module leader, will enable groups to update the module leader and other students on their progress, and will serve as a forum in which common issues and problems can be collectively discussed. Groups will give presentations on their progress. This will serve as a mechanism for formative feedback on the progress of the project from the module leader and other students, as well as developing oral presentation skills. Summative assessment will take the form of a) a two hour exam, and b) reports on the group project. The exam will require students to answer two questions. The report asks students to reflect upon the production of the output for their group project, and should describe their contribution to the project; the research which informed the output; how the output was designed to meet the needs of an external body, and what they have learned from this process. The output itself should be attached as an appendix to the report. GCULearn plays a vital part in the GSBS learning and teaching strategy as a blended learning tool. The School will ensure that all modules are not only GCULearn-enabled, but also at the cutting edge in developing online learning materials. Academic staff and the Learning Technologists will continue to work together to develop and operate all modules on GCULearn, ensuring effective student support and information sharing. Students are provided with formative and summative feedback via a variety of mechanisms. Feedback on coursework is normally provided within 3 working weeks of submission.

Indicative Reading

J. Andrews and I. Smith (eds), Let there be Light Again: A History of Gartnavel Royal Hospital from its Beginnings to the Present Day (1993) J. Andrews and A. Digby (eds), Sex and Seclusion, Class and Custody: Perspectives on Gender and Class in the History of British and Irish Psychiatry (2004) P. Barham, Closing the Asylum: the Mental Patient in Modern Society (1997) P. Bartlett and D. Wright, Outside the Walls of the Asylum: The History of Care in the Community 1750-2000 (1999) J. Busfield, Men, Women and Madness: Understanding Gender and Mental Disorder (1996) N. Crossley, Contesting Psychiatry: Social Movements in Mental Health (2006) P. Dale and J. Melling (eds), Mental Illness and Learning Disability Since 1850: Finding a Place for Mental Disorder in the United Kingdom (2006) K. Davis, '"Silent and Censured Travellers"? Patients' Narratives and Patients' Voices: Perspectives on the History of Mental Illness since 1948', Social History of Medicine, 14 (2001), pp. 267-92. B. Forsythe and J. Melling (eds), Insanity, Institutions and Society, 1800-1914 (1999) M. Foucault, Madness and Civilization (1965) M. Gijswijt-Hofstra and R. Porter (eds), Cultures of Psychiatry and Mental Health Care in Postwar Britain and the Netherlands (1998) S. L. Gilman, Disease and Representation: Images of Illness from Madness to Aids (1988) D. Gittins, Madness in its Place: Narratives of Severalls Hospital (1998) E. Goffman, Asylums: Essays on the Social Situation of Mental Patients and Other Inmates (1961) R. D. Laing, The Divided Self: An Existential Study in Sanity and Madness (1965) J. Laws, 'Crackpots and basket-cases: a history of therapeutic work and occupation', History of the Human Sciences, 24 (2011), pp. 65-81. V. Long, '"A Satisfactory job is the best psychotherapist": employment and mental health, 1939-60', in J. Melling and P. Dale (eds), Mental Illness and Learning Disability Since 1850: Finding a Place for Mental Disorder in the United Kingdom(2006). V. Long, '"Often there is a good deal to be done, but socially rather than medically": the psychiatric social worker as social therapist, 1945-70' Medical History, 55 (2011), pp. 223-39. V. Long, 'Rethinking post-war mental health care: industrial therapy and the chronic mental patient in Britain', Social History of Medicine, advance access (2013) V. Long, Destigmatising Mental Illness? Professional Politics and Public Education in Britain, 1870-1970 (2014) T. Loughran, 'Shell-shock, trauma and the First World War: the making of a diagnosis and its histories', Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, 67 (2012), pp. 94-119. G. Philo (ed.), Media and Mental Distress (1996) R. Porter, A Social History of Madness: Stories of the Insane (1996) A. Scull, The Most Solitary of Afflictions: Madness and Society in Britain, 1700-1900 (1993) E. Shorter, A History of Psychiatry from the Era of the Asylum to the Age of Prozac (1997) J. Stewart, 'Child Guidance in Inter-War Scotland: International Context and Domestic Concerns', Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 80 (2006), pp. 513-39. J. Stewart, Child Guidance in Britain, 1918-1955 (2013) M. Thomson, Psychological Subjects: Identity, Culture and Health in Twentieth-Century Britain (2006) L. Topp, J. Moran and J. Andrews (eds), Madness, Architecture and the Built Environment Psychiatric Spaces in Historical Context (2007) O. Walsh, 'A Perfectly Ordered Establishment: the Connaught District Lunatic Asylum (Ballinasloe)' in P. Prior (ed), Irish Asylums: Mental Health Care in Ireland since 1800 (2012). O. Walsh, '"The Designs of Providence": Race, Religion and Irish Insanity', in J. Melling & B. Forsyth (eds.) Insanity and Society: The Asylum in its Social Context (1999), pp. 223-242. R. Warner, Recovery from Schizophrenia: Psychiatry and the Political Economy (2003).

Transferrable Skills

-360 1. Confidence to take control for own learning. -360 2. An ability to critically evaluate different perspectives and methodological approaches. 3. The ability to apply history, and research skills associated with history, to real world scenarios and local contexts. The ability to work with colleagues to successfully design and complete a project; to divide workloads and share responsibilities

Module Structure

Activity Total Hours
Seminars 22.00
Practicals (FT) 11.00
Assessment 27.00
Independent Learning 140.00

Assessment Methods

Component Duration Weighting Threshold Description
Course Work 01 n/a 50.00 35% 2500 word essay
Exam (Exams Office) 2.00 50.00 35% Unseen Exam