Friends of the College Archives: Bridging the gap between the two History of Psychiatry Special Interest Groups
02 March, 2021
By Francis Maunze, Archivist and Records Manager.
History of Psychiatry Special Interest Group (1988 – 2003)
Portrait of Henry Rollin (1974-1985) painted by Jacob Kramer.
By the end of 1989 the Group had held three symposia, one at Robinson College, Cambridge, on Henry Maudsley. This was featured in the October edition of British Medical Journal. The other was a Cambridge meeting on the History of Physical Treatments in Psychiatry, whose proceedings appeared in a supplement of the Journal of Psychopharmacology. The third was the October meeting on the History of Psychiatric Symptoms.
During that year, the Group began working on two publishing ventures: Current Opinion in Psychiatry, which was to include a yearly issue on the history and philosophy of psychiatry, and the quarterly journal History of Psychiatry whose first issue was published in March 1990. Members of the Group contributed articles, notes, news, and commentaries. The journal was published in collaboration with the College.
At the College's 150th Anniversary meeting held in Brighton, the Group organised a special session on "The Current State of Psychiatric Historiography", The meeting was chaired by Dr Henry Rollin, and among the speakers there were luminaries such as Professors Raquel Alvarez from Spain, Otto Marx from Germany, and George Mora from the USA, and Dr Roy Porter of London. Members of the Group also participated in the publication of 150 Years of British Psychiatry 1841-1991, a book dedicated to an analysis of the evolution of psychiatry in the UK as seen through the privileged window of the College and the associations that pre-dated it.
In 1992 the Group organised a meeting to commemorate the centenary of Hack Tuke`s famous Dictionary of Psychological Medicine. Between 1993 and 1999 the Group continued to organise seminars, conducting research, and establishing useful links with other similar organisations.
From 2000 the Group stopped submitting annual reports to Council. In February 2002 Council noted the Group no longer seemed to be active, and in 2003 Council accepted the proposal from the Executive and Finance Committee that the Group should be discontinued.
Friends of the College Archives (FOCA) (2008-2015)
In 2007 Dr Fiona Subotsky was appointed the first Honorary Archivist, after having been the Honorary Treasurer of the College from 1999 to 2006. The role of the Honorary Archivist was to promote the history of the College and its archival collections, and to work closely with the College Archivist. The Honorary Archivist was also tasked with the responsibility of building links with individuals and organisations interested in the history of psychiatry, and achieve this, Dr Subotsky decided to establish a Friends of the College Archives group.
The establishment of the group enabled me, as I had just joined the College in 2006, to develop important links with Members, some eventually donated their historical papers to the Archives.
Proposed activities of the group included one meeting a year at the College, usually in connection with a display or presentation, a history session at the annual meeting, an annual visit/outing to a site of historical interest such as an old asylum, encouragement of history projects relating to psychiatry, and circulation of a newsletter by post or email three times a year.
Achievements of the group include:
- Supporting the launch of Thomas Bewley's book on the history of the College, From Madness to Mental Illness: A history of the Royal College of Psychiatrists at the 2008 Annual Meeting.
- Organising of history of psychiatry sessions at annual meetings. The first session was presented at the 2009 Annual Meeting in Liverpool. It was called “From Shell Shock to Secure Psychiatry in Merseyside” Professor Edgar Jones` presentation was on ‘Shell Shock: the work of Maghull in World War I’ and Dr Caroline Mulligan`s presentation was on ‘Ashworth Hospital Now’.
- Organising an exhibition on 'Ten Nineteenth Century Presidents and their Asylums' for the 2008 Annual Meeting
- Circulating sixteen e-newsletters which published interesting items from the Archives and contained news of events relating to the history of psychiatry.
- Creating a poster on Dr Helen Boyle, first woman President of the Royal Medico-Psychological Association, which was displayed at the College`s 2012 International Congress held in Brighton.
Helen Boyle, first female president of the Royal Medico Psychological Association, 1939-1940.
History of Psychiatry Special Interest Group (2015 – present)
Like the first SIG, this Group has also been involved in organising meetings, seminars, and RCPsych International Congress sessions. The Group also circulates an eNewsletter twice a year. The Group held its first witness seminar in October 2019.