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Freud, Erikson, and the Historian: A Bibliographical Survey ROBERT M. CRUNDEN Nothing seems to make the average historian more nervous than a new methodology that he does not readily understand. Over the past two decades we have seen vogues for the use of statistics, computers, sociological concepts, economic determinism, anthropological studies of culture - the list is long. Some historians always seem ready to adopt the newest craze, whatever it is; most have numerous reasons ready that protect their own comfortable methodology, and consign the brash newcomer to the wastebasket. Often, whether they will admit it or not, however , the nay-sayers feel a certain guilt about what they are doing; they seem to feel that they ought to be more up-to-date, but their ability to learn is limited by institutional and financial constrictions, and they greatly fear the adverse criticism that any use of the new methodologies in their work might receive. The growing vogue of the use of psychoanalytic theory in history is an important case in point. The earliest attempt in America to use Freudian theory in a work of serious history was probably Preserved Smith's essay on Martin Luther/ but serious professional historians did not absorb Freud"s teachings on a large scale or in any meaningful sense until after World War II. A number of creative artists and critics experimented with psychological devices borrowed from Freud and Jung as early as the 1920s,2 and Harold Lasswell applied Freudian theory seriously to political science.,3 but in history only popular writers largely concerned with debunking the values of their parents' generation made rather crude use of the more sophisticated methodologies available. 4 The rise of totalitarian regimes in Europe during the 1930s led to a sharp rise in the influence of psychoanalysis; the conditions in central Europe especially were instrumental in bringing eminent social scientists to America who in turn exercised great influence in American sociology and psychology. 5 Some of these men returned to Germany and neighboring countries after the war., but enough of them stayed to produce research and students who together changed the whole face of American social science. By the middle of the 1950s, Erik Erikson was deep in his THE CANADIAN REVIEW OF AMERICAN STUDIES VOL, IV, NO. 1, SPRING 1973 enormously influential study of Martin Luther, probably the key work for historians, and Alexander L. and Juliette L. George, students of Harold Lasswell, published their Woodrow Wilson and Colonel House (N.Y., 1956), the first book-length study by Americans on American history to have definite impact. The 1960s saw these seeds take firm root, and now articles in the major historical journals and even entire works show the influence of psychoanalysis. The growth of any new methodology is bound to excite opposition, but with psychoanalytic theory in its various forms the criticisms have been especially vigorous. Indeed, not since the revisionist debates over the origins of the world wars have so many scholars, both well-known and aspiring, become so irritated in what purports to be a serious scholarly debate. What I would like to do in the pages that follow is to examine some of the obvious categories that have developed in the writing of psychoanalytically informed history, formulate some of the most important issues under debate, and in the process mention most of the sources worthy of serious study by any historian who wishes to familiarize himself with this literature. II The impact of Freudian theory on American civilization has received intense examination during the past fifteen years. Three scholars have been producing valuable work that opens up this entire subject for the years before 1918. The best brief introduction, and the place where the totally uninformed should begin, is the article that F. H. Matthews developed from his 1957 M.A. thesis at Berkeley. 6 Almost simultaneously, John C. Burnham was writing his Stanford dissertation on virtually the same subject. Burnham, who has one of the sharpest intelligences in the field of the history of American science, then studied psychiatry extensively for three years, and revised and cut his dissertation. The published version emphasizes the medical impact more than the earlier version did...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1710-114X
Print ISSN
0007-7720
Pages
pp. 48-64
Launched on MUSE
2019-01-02
Open Access
No
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