The Psychohistory reference article from the English Wikipedia on 24-Apr-2004
(provided by Fixed Reference: snapshots of Wikipedia from


Support a children's charity online

The neutrality of this article is disputed.

For the fictional use of the term "psychohistory", see psychohistory (fictional)

Psychohistory is the study of the psychological motivations of historical events, combining the insights of psychotherapy with the research methodology of the social sciences to understand the emotional origin of the social and political behavior of groups and nations, past and present. This field of study is significantly outside the mainstream of the fields of history and psychology.

Table of contents
1 Description
2 Areas of Psychohistorical Study
3 Emergence As A Discipline
4 Independence as A Discipline
5 Organisations and Centers of Study
6 See also
7 References
8 External links


Psychohistory derives many of its insights from areas that are ignored by conventional historians as shaping factors; in particular, childbirth, parenting practise, child abuse and willful neglect. The often hidden historical roles of incest, infanticide, and child sacrifice are considered. Pschohistory holds that human societies can evolve into and out of infanticidal practices and has coined the term ' early infanticidal childrearing ' to descibe the kind of child abuse and neglect observed by many anthropologists.

Pschohistory holds that most political scientists and historians teach "realism" and "neo-realism"; ie. that social behaviour is rational, not irrational, and that international violence is for economic gain, not loss. Psychohistorians contemplate that often social behaviour is a self-destructive re-enactment of earlier abuse and neglect. They hold that unconscious flashbacks to early fears and destructive parenting dominate individual and societal behaviour.

Psychohistory has been credited with helping to revitalise the historical biography. Notable examples of psychobiography are those by Lewis Namier, who wrote of the British House of Commons and Fawn Brodie, who wrote of Thomas Jefferson.

Areas of Psychohistorical Study

There are three inter-related areas of psychohistorical study.

Emergence As A Discipline

Sigmund Freud is probably most qualified to be described as the inventor of the field as his works, such as Civilization and Its Discontents, often included historical analysis supported by his theories of psychoanalysis. Lloyd deMause was a pioneer in the field of psychohistory and continues to be extremely influential in it. Other notable psychohistorians include Alice Miller and Julian Jaynes, though they are rarely thought of as such.

Independence as A Discipline

Lloyd deMause and others have argued that psychohistory is a field of scientific inquiry with its own peculiar methods, objectives and theories and that it is separate from history and anthropology. Some historians , social scientists and anthropologists have argued that their disciplines , do in fact , attempt to describe motivations in their respective fields of study and that Psychohistory is not a separate subject .

Others have dismissed deMause's theories and motives arguing that the emphasis given by Psychohistory to what can only be speculation on the psychological motivations of people in history make it a completely undisciplined field of study.

Doubt has also been cast on the viability of the application of post-mortem psychoanalysis, which is a concept that neither Freud nor the post-Freudian schools of psychoanalysis had in mind while developing their theories.

Psychohistorians reply that the difference is one of emphasis; in conventional study narrative and description is central and psychological motivation is hardly touched on. In psychohistory motivation takes centre stage.

Organisations and Centers of Study

The principal centre for psychohistorical study is The Institute for Psychohistory which has 19 branches around the globe and has for 30 years published The Journal of Psychohistory. Its director is Lloyd deMause,

The International Psychohistorical Association, is the professional organisation for the field of psychohistory. It publishes “Psychohistory News” and has a psychohistorical mail order lending library. It hosts an annual convention.

Psychohistory is taught at a few universities as an adjunct to history or social science or as a post graduate study. The following have published course details; Boston University, City University of New York, University of Nevada, State University of New York, at Rockland, and Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut.

See also


External links