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Authors: Robertson, David John
Advisors: GuentherWailoo, KatjaKeith
Contributors: History of Science Department
Keywords: Biostatistics
History of Psychiatry
Subjects: History
Issue Date: 2023
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: Beginning in the late 1950s the World Health Organization began the momentous task of creating international standards for the classification of mental disorders. By sharpening and standardizing the language of psychiatry, the organization intended to transform psychiatry into a branch of public health amenable to epidemiological representation. In this dissertation I track key developments in the formation of psychiatric epidemiology inside and around the WHO. Focusing primarily on the three decades immediately following the Second World War, I argue that psychiatric epidemiology arose on the back of the postwar welfare state’s reform of the collection of hospital statistics. This reform and the sheer quantity of data it soon provided researchers catalyzed the development of an internationally orientated approach to the classification of mental disorders. It soon drew in biostatisticians with wholly different concerns about the uniform quality of their data. Tracking the implications these developments had for the psychiatric discipline, I argue that it was fundamentally transformed by the WHO’s long-term projects in the epidemiology of mental disorders. In contrast to the emphasis other historians have placed on developments in the United States, I focus on events taking place within the international context of the WHO that drove psychiatry in the postwar era to become increasingly “descriptive” in its outlook.
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:History of Science

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