Revisions to the Standard British Classification of the Forms of Insanity 1902 – 1906
Dr Kevin Matthew JonesZoom
Between 1902 and 1906, the British psychiatrists revised the standard classification of insanity used to in asylum statistics and published in public health reports. Asylum administration, public health and the emerging eugenics movement increasingly looked towards asylum statistics on diagnoses to inform research into public health and population control. At the same time, the standard classification was regarded as problematic. This paper pinpoints the four-year period in which British psychiatry revised the classification into a ‘Kraepelinian’ document, albeit with important caveats. The classification emerging from these debates was applied across the British Isles, and played a significant role in the circulation of the diagnostic concept of dementia praecox in the Anglophone world. It marks the clearest moment that the division of insanity employed in public health reports was formally changed to one informed by Kraepelinian psychology. This paper will demonstrate how this episode a) demonstrates the transmission of medical knowledge between clinical contexts and public health, b) across national contexts, and c) deepens our understanding of the development of transnational psychiatry, which still remains a hotly contested issue. Following Bowker and Star (2001), it will demonstrate how cultural and social influences on health become concealed during codification processes.