Software Engineering (3 Years) [BSc]

Madness and Society in the Modern Age

Unit code: UCIL30832
Credit Rating: 10
Unit level: Level 3
Teaching period(s): Semester 2
Offered by School of Biological Sciences
Available as a free choice unit?: N




To explore a selection of topics in the social, cultural, intellectual, and institutional history of psychiatry in Britain from 1800 to the present. Students will become familiar with the main ideas, figures, and events in the history of views about the nature and management of madness, and the changing social meanings and context of mental illness. And they will develop an understanding of the history of psychological medicine as a case study in the interaction of science, society, and culture.

This course unit can also be taken as a 20 credit version (HSTM40332).


You will study the main ideas, figures, and events in the history of views about the nature and management of madness, and the changing social meanings and context of mental illness. Topic will include "Sigmund Freud and the ‘birth’ of psychoanalysis" and "Shell Shock, Psychiatry and War".

Learning outcomes

Students will be able:

•       to show an appreciation of historical approaches to medicine

•       to demonstrate a knowledge of the chronology of changes in the understanding and management of mental illness since 1800

•       to have a critical appreciation of the debates surrounding the reasons for particular policies and treatments for mental illness

•       to take part in informed discussions on these topics and issues

•       to reflect critically on the changing role of psychiatry and the cultural meanings of madness

Employability skills

  • Analytical skillsStudents encouraged to reflect critically on the topics covered.
  • Group/team workingStudents take part in group discussions and debates relating to the issues and topics covered.
  • Innovation/creativityStudents have the opportunity to be innovative in terms of how they address their essay topic.
  • Project management20-credit students are required to submit a written project.
  • Oral communicationStudents take part in informed discussions of the topics covered.
  • ResearchResearch required for essays and projects. Students learn to search, access and interpret online resources.
  • Written communicationStudents receive feedback on a coursework essay. 20 credit students also produce a long essay/project.

Assessment Further Information

Essay (50%) and 2 hour examination (50%)


  • Introduction and ‘The Age of Unreason’
  • Reforming the Mad Trade
  • The Great Confinement
  • Theories of Insanity: Phrenology to Degeneration
  • Insanity, Crime and Responsibility
  • The Madwoman and her doctors
  • Sigmund Freud and the ‘birth’ of psychoanalysis
  • Shell Shock, Psychiatry and War
  • Treating Madness: ‘A Therapeutic Revolution’?
  • The Closure of Mental Hospitals
  • From Anti-Psychotic to Life Style Drugs

Recommended reading

Porter, Roy. Madness: A Brief History. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Shorter, Edward. A History of Psychiatry: From the Era of the Asylum to the Age of Prozac. Chichester: Wiley, 1997.

Scull, Andrew T. Madhouse: A Tragic Tale of Megalomania and Modern Medicine. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005.

Zaretsky, Eli. Secrets of the Soul: A Social and Cultural History of Psychoanalysis. New York: Vintage Books, 2005.

Feedback methods

Students may ask questions at any time during lectures and seminars. Teaching staff can usually answer specific queries by email or during office hours, and will provide contact details in the course handbook or at lectures. All submitted coursework will be returned with annotations and an assessment sheet explaining the mark awarded. In addition, students on the 20-credit version receive comments through individual supervision meetings.

Study hours

  • Assessment written exam - 2 hours
  • Lectures - 12 hours
  • Seminars - 12 hours
  • Independent study hours - 74 hours

Teaching staff

Carsten Timmermann - Unit coordinator

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