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Keywords:

  • history;
  • psychiatry;
  • social;
  • traditional

Objective: To review two seemingly contradictory accounts of the history of psychiatrists and psychiatry and outline some thoughts on integrating these differing views.

Method: The context of these two accounts is given in a brief overview of the historiography of medicine and psychiatry in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries with illustrative examples, in particular looking at the practically useful distinction between the traditional and social history of psychiatry.

Conclusions: Understanding how and why these two currents of psychiatric history differ allows one to derive and integrate useful insights from both.