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2024/25 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

HPSC2400 History of Psychiatry and Mental Illness

20 creditsClass Size: 75

Module manager: Kevin Jones

Taught: Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2024/25

This module is approved as a discovery module

Module summary

Many of us have been personally affected by mental illness, and even if not, ideas and practices from psychiatry constantly shape the way we see ourselves and the people around us. Over the last 200 years, explanations and treatments for mental illnesses have changed drastically and frequently, leaving a mixed but important legacy. This module will survey psychiatric developments from the late 18th century to the present day; it will explore the way theories and therapies have been a part of philosophical, economic or social discussions; and it will investigate how changes in psychiatry have affected the lives of those deemed to be mentally ill.


To examine key theories and practices in the evolution of psychiatric medicine on their own terms, and to understand how these were a part of public policy and debates about philosophy, economics and society.
To become familiar with a range of primary and secondary authors, and to develop experience in reading, researching and writing about developments in the history of mental illness and psychiatry.
To explore the practical, theoretical and ethical criticisms made against psychiatry, and to appreciate the role that history can have in changing our modern understanding of mental illness.

Learning outcomes
Understanding of: the changing nature of psychiatric practices in the past two centuries; the role of mental health provision within broader policy discussions; and the effect of changes to psychiatry on the way mental illness has been recognised and treated.
Engagement with historical and contemporary debates about psychiatry and mental illness, awareness of a broad range of important writers and thinkers, and enhanced skills in analysing the context and purpose of various arguments.
Appreciation of the role of history in understanding modern psychiatry and the stigmatisation of mental illness, and experience in researching and writing about materials, institutions and people from the history of psychiatry.

Skills outcomes
An understanding of the way medical knowledge and techniques are contingent and socially embedded, and how they can be uncovered through methodological approaches of historians and philosophers of science, technology and medicine.


Each week, the module will engage with a new topic in the history of psychiatry. These are thematic, but also chronologically arranged, building up a fuller picture of how psychiatry has evolved. With each lecture a primary and secondary reading related to the particular topic will be introduced.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours180.00
Total Contact hours20.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

Weekly reading and preparation: 70 hours
Report preparation and writing: 110 hours

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Students will be able to visit staff during office hours, or seek advice by email. Students will receive verbal comments on their understanding and progress in seminars. Students will have the opportunity to submit a 1000-word plan of their project report for feedback.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Report3000 word Project Report (end of module)100.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 29/04/2024 16:19:42


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