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

A History of Psychiatry: From the Era of the Asylum to the Age of Prozac
Author: Edward Shorter
ISBN 13: 9780471245315
ISBN 10: 471245313
Edition: 1
Publisher: Wiley
Publication Date: 1998-03-03
Format: Paperback
Pages: 448
List Price: $45.00

"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 fiercelypartisan account is compelling reading for anyone with a personal, intellectual, or professional interest in psychiatry.

William F. Gabrielli

This book reviews psychiatry's evolution from its beginning as a medical specialty with therapeutic asylums, through the early biological era, the descriptive period, the psychoanalytic era, and finally the medical era. With the previous major chronicles of psychiatry more than 30 years old, the author sought to update the historical perspective. Despite contrary popular media references, the psychoanalytic era—championed for years by the psychoanalytic societies and institutions—is ended. Beginning in the 1950s, medical advances, improved diagnosis, and later, managed care sealed the transition. The author captures the changing discipline's character, presenting his perspective with eloquence, style, and riveting novel-like quality. This book chronicles psychiatry for the student and updates professionals and others who may incompletely appreciate the field's paradigmatic shifts. Neither a psychiatrist nor a clinical psychiatry expert, the historian author objectively and credibly develops the story. Photographs of some historical characters are included, but some expected images are absent. Although the book describes a timeline, no figures, tables, or other graphs depict the paradigmatic shifts. Adequate references add to the excellent appearance, feel, and prose. Previously, no single source clearly and concisely captured psychiatry's evolutionary essence. The book identifies the asylum physicians' efforts to develop therapeutic interventions. It chronicles the ambitious hopes of those who sought to explain psychiatric illness with anatomy, pathology, and genetics. Documented is the descriptive era with development of a psychiatric illness nosology. The bookfairly describes the psychoanalytic era and the analysts' motivations and contributions. According to the author, this period was a hiatus for the understanding and treatment of true psychiatric illness. The modern era, built upon the descriptive one, utilizes empirically sound pharmacologic and other therapies. If the book has weaknesses, they are partial appreciation for community psychiatry, incomplete acknowledgment of the impact of the rapidly evolving psychopharmacology, and minimal conjecture about the next era. Overall, this excellent book is for anyone seeking insight into modern psychiatry.