Witness seminar: Development of child and adolescent psychiatry from 1960 until 1990

Witness seminars are oral histories, where those who experienced an event or historical period share their first-person accounts of it. From this, a transcript is produced which becomes an important historical reference document. 

This witness seminar was organised by Emeritus Professor Philip Graham and edited by Philip Graham, Helen Minnis and Malcolm Nicolson. It is available as a PDF which includes the transcript from the event.

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By Philip Graham, Emeritus Professor of Child Psychiatry, Institute of Child Health, London 

The specialty of child and adolescent psychiatry began in Britain in the 1920s. The period from the 1960s to the present time has been exceptionally rapid both in academic and service development. 

We decided that a project was needed to capture the oral history memories of some of those who participated in the earlier part of this period from 1960 to 1990. Witness seminars are features of academic contemporary history research, and have for several years been used in the exploration of medical history by the Wellcome Trust at University College London.

Our seminar was hosted by the Centre for the History of Medicine at the University of Glasgow in May 2009. “Witnesses” were selected on the basis of their contributions to different spheres of the specialty. Because of time constraints, it was not possible to invite all of those who had played a significant part.

Speakers were invited to recount their own experiences of the history of child and adolescent psychiatry and introduce topics for discussion between themselves and by the audience. The seminar was advertised in the newsletter produced by the College's Faculty of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, as well as through the Centre for the History of Medicine, the University of Glasgow, and by word of mouth. 

The sound recording of the meeting has been transcribed and footnotes added. The participants included several leading members of the specialty – academics, chairmen and secretaries of relevant organisations and those who had pioneered service developments. They had all played a major role in extending knowledge and in shaping and developing the specialty in Britain.



The organisers wish gratefully to acknowledge the financial support of the Wellcome Trust and the Guthrie Trust of the Scottish Society of the History of Medicine which made this event possible. 

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