Time-Travelling Through the Tavistock Archives

Time-Travelling Through the Tavistock Archives

This session was a tale of two journeys. In the first journey, archive documents were used to journey into the past and retrace the steps I took during my PhD to uncover the fascinating and untold stories behind Second World War officer selection and the creation of a programme to rehabilitate thousands of returning POWs. We also explored in the session how the archive revealed the insights and frustrations of the Army psychiatrists whose wartime collaboration inspired them to establish the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations. As well as a story about psychiatry and the British Army in the 1940s, this is also a story of the archive’s own journey, from chaotic boxes stored far away to the ordered catalogued material now orderable at Wellcome Library.

In the second journey, we headed into the future to explore some of the archive treasures yet to be properly examined, and avenues for further research that they might inspire. This is of course only the tip of the archival iceberg, but offered a great opportunity to connect with the archive and begin a new voyage of exploration…


Alice White completed a PhD titled ‘From the Science of Selection to Psychologising Civvy Street: The Tavistock Group, 1939-1948’ and graduated from the University of Kent in 2016.She now works as a Research Engagement Consultant at Wellcome Library, London.
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