Psychoanalysis Goes to War (Eventually)

Psychoanalysis Goes to War (Eventually)

A prehistory of the Tavistock Institute.

The Tavistock had a battle on their hands. At the outbreak of World War II, its psychiatrists felt that they had expertise to offer the British Army, but many in the British Army didn’t want it. Churchill himself was one of many whose resistance to the employment of psychiatric expertise in the Army had to be overcome.

This talk is based on research in the Tavistock Institute’s archives which are now in the process of being opened up and catalogued. It explores how and why the ‘Invisible College’ of Tavistock psychiatrists were resisted in their work on War Office Selection Boards, and how they responded.

The production of Officer selection techniques and the negotiation of Army-acceptable practices required a re-conception of what psychoanalysis did, and who with. It also shaped the distinctive identity of the Tavistock Institute, inaugurated after the war by those who were instrumental in the officer selection work.

Recording of the talk

Speaker’s bio

Alice White is an AHRC funded PhD student at the Centre for the History of the Sciences at the University of Kent. She studies the history of management science human relations during the Second World War and in post-war Britain, with an aim to understand how social and cultural factors influenced the creation of a ‘science of management’.

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