Keeping America Sane (Cornell Studies in the History of Psychiatry Series): Psychiatry and Eugenics in the United States and Canada, 1880-1940

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Overview

What would bring a physician to conclude that sterilization is appropriate treatment for the mentally ill and mentally handicapped? Using archival sources, Ian Robert Dowbiggin documents the involvement of both American and Canadian psychiatrists in the eugenics movement of the early twentieth century. He explains why professional men and women committed to helping those less fortunate than themselves arrived at such morally and intellectually dubious conclusions. Psychiatrists at the end of the nineteenth century felt professionally vulnerable, Dowbiggin explains, because they were under intense pressure from state and provincial governments and from other physicians to reform their specialty. Eugenic ideas, which dominated public health policy making, seemed the best vehicle for catching up with the progress of science. Among the prominent psychiatrist-eugenicists Dowbiggin considers are G. Alder Blumer, Charles Kirk Clarke, Thomas Salmon, Clare Hincks, and William Partlow. Tracing psychiatric support for eugenics throughout the interwar years, Dowbiggin pays special attention to the role of psychiatrists in the fierce debates about immigration policy. His examination of psychiatry's unfortunate flirtation with eugenics elucidates how professional groups come to think and act along common lines within specific historical contexts.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This timely and balanced account provides a fresh new perspective on the place of eugenics in the history of American and Canadian psychiatry. By putting the profession's ambivalent embrace of eugenics in institutional and professional context, Dowbiggin provides a compelling account of this troubling episode in American history. Beautifully written and cogently argued, Keeping America Sane will remain the standard work on the subject for decades to come."—Nancy Tomes, SUNY at Stony Brook
Library Journal
Psychiatric historian Dowbiggin (Inheriting Madness, Univ. of California, 1991) traces the role of American and Canadian psychiatrists in the eugenics movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Dowbiggin portrays these psychiatrists, especially those working in mental institutions, as neither heroes nor villains but as public servants caught up in the progressivism of the times, pressured by governments and officials to change the focus of their profession from managing custodial care to implementing cost-effective treatment of mental disorders. Focusing on the professional careers of prominent psychiatrists G. Alder Blumer, C.K. Clarke, and their colleagues and successors, the author demonstrates how psychiatrists under the influence of the eugenics movement often advocated, and sometimes protested, the regulation of marriage, reproduction, immigration, and segregation of the mentally handicapped. Recommended for medical history collections.Lucille M. Boone, San Jose P.L., Cal.
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Product Details

Table of Contents

Preface
Abbreviations
Introduction 1
1 An Exodus of Enthusiasm: Psychiatry in Canada and the United States, 1880-1920 23
2 A Confusing Wildness of Recommendations: G. Alder Blumer, Eugenics, and U.S. Psychiatry, 1880-1940 70
3 Keeping This Young Country Sane: C. K. Clarke, Eugenics, and Canadian Psychiatry, 1890-1940 133
4 A Question of Public Health: Psychiatry, Eugenics, and Immigration in the United States, 1880-1925 191
Conclusion: Reflections on the History of Eugenics 232
Index 241
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