“I fear I am not in my perfect mind”: Mental health and the perception of madness in Shakespearian England

By Hannah McCann In Shakespeare’s plays, ‘madness’ plagues many of the characters. It is thought that the work of John Hall, a physician and Shakespeare’s son-in-law, influenced the playwright’s depiction of mental illness to some degree.  Physicians could explain some mental illnesses by drawing on ancient ideas. The concept of the four humours, created by […]

Ghosts of the Past – Our emotional connection to history

By Georgie Todd When we think of ‘history’ there are probably two images that pop into our minds: one of a grey-haired, old professors hunched over a dusty tomb of ancient words, or one of grand manor houses and castles, high ceilings and banquets fit for kings and queens. It is this split between ideas […]

Volume 12: Mental Health Week – Foreword

For this edition of New Histories, we wanted to provide a space for students to discuss mental health throughout history, and so many have done so brilliantly. While there has no doubt been much disruption due to the impact of COVID-19, it is great to see so many students engaging with their historical interests and […]

The Tragic Plague of Eyam: a history more fiction than fact?

By Ethan Battison ‘The desolation of Eyam by the plague, in years 1665 and 1666’, wrote the Victorian William Wood, ‘has no parallel; not even that of the “Black Death” of the fourteenth century’. According to Wood, it was the severity of the scourge in Eyam, being ‘more dreadful and fatal … than of any […]

Lobotomy, Insulin Coma Therapy, Electroshock & Cardiazol: The Miracle Cures?

By Aggi Yates In 1936, António Egas Moniz proposed the Lobotomy, a form of brain surgery that physicians believed would provide a cure for the baffling condition of schizophrenia. According to a reputable medical journal, The Lancet, a ‘long hollow needle… to which is attached a loop of strong wire’ was inserted into the brain […]

The Idiots, Insane and Mad: How projections of mental illness in Indian lunatic asylums protected British imperialism.

By Shaye Mistry It becomes an almost impossible task to single out how colonial Britain saw mental health in a period of high colonialism. In the contemporary, however,  psychiatric science was by its very nature a by-product of colonialism. In India, traditional methods of healing and dealing with madness were common and available to the […]

The Importance of Teaching Colonial History to Tackle Contemporary Racism

By Rebecca Mason The Holocaust has been remembered in history as one of the most devastating atrocities on behalf of humanity. The large-scale and centrally coordinated genocidal attack on minority groups, mostly constituting of Jews, possesses the largest magnitude of deaths in history. Yet, the many other acts of genocides that were of consistent occurrence […]

Thomas Howard 3rd Earl of Effingham: Yorkshire and the United States

By Thomas W. B. Hill Anyone who has travelled by train from Sheffield to Leeds may have found themselves wondering why the Rotherham United stadium, which is right next to the tracks, is called “New York Stadium” some three thousand miles away from the American city. The story behind that involves the town’s industrial past […]

A Recent History of Institutional Racism in British Mental Health Services

By Sam Gilder “In this country in fifteen or twenty years time the black man will have the whip hand over the white man.” Those were the words of Conservative MP Enoch Powell on 20th April 1968. His ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech contained criticism of the proposed Race Relations bill of the same year, which […]

Shell Shock: The First World War, masculinity and mental health

By Eleanor Stokes The First World War commenced during the summer of 1914 as a result of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Six months into the international conflict the term ‘shell shock’ first appeared in the medical journal The Lancet. Although soldiers themselves had utilized the phrase, Captain Charles Myers of the Royal Army […]