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History of Psychology Goes International

For the last ten years (1999-2009), historians of the psychological sciences in Argentina have been meeting annually for the presentation and discussion of scholarly papers.

By Wade E. Pickren

Since the 1960s, the history of psychology as an active scholarly field within the discipline of psychology has become well-established in North America, the United Kingdom, and in the Netherlands and Germany. The success of the field is marked by a graduate program at York University, archives, and scholarly societies. The latter include the Society for the History of Psychology (APA Division 26), the CPA History and Philosophy of Psychology Section, Cheiron, and the History and Philosophy Section of the British Psychological Society.

Less well-known is the substantial development of the history of psychology as a specialty field in several countries outside these traditional centers. In Spain, there is an active community of scholars dedicated to the history of psychology. The Spanish Society for the History of Psychology (Sociedad Espanola de Historia de la Psicología) meets each year at one of the Spanish universities. Upcoming meetings will be held in Oviedo (2009) and San Sebastian (2010). The Society publishes a newsletter (Boletín) and has published its journal, Revista de Historia de la Psicología (Journal of the History of Psychology), since 1980. More information can be found at the Society’s website, or contact Gabriel Ruiz and Natividad Gonzalez at the Universidad de Sevilla.

For the last ten years (1999-2009), historians of the psychological sciences in Argentina have been meeting annually for the presentation and discussion of scholarly papers. The annual convention is named, “Encuentro Argentino de Historia de la Psiquiatría, Psicología y Psicoanalisis” (Argentine Meeting for the History of Psychiatry, Psychology and Psychoanalysis). As the name implies, the history of psychology in Argentina is broadly conceptualized to include psychiatry and psychoanalysis, as well as clinical and experimental psychology. The meeting is held in a different city each year, with the 2009 meeting to be held in San Luis in October. According to Dr. Hugo Klappenbach, one of the leading scholars of Argentinian history of psychology, he and his colleagues have developed a critical perspective on their subject. That is, they seek to understand historical events and people in the context of their time and place, rather than only interpreting the past in terms of present values and ideas. For more information about the history of psychology in Argentina, please contact Dr. Klappenbach.

In Brazil there are some very important developments in the history of psychology. Currently, there are two on-line journals devoted to the field: Memorandum. Memória e História em Psicologia which began in 2001 and is abstracted in PsycInfo; the other journal is Mnemosine, the first issue of which was published in 2004. The University of Minas Gerais holds the Archives on the History of Brazilian Psychology, which contains the Center of Historical Documentation and Research on Helena Antipoff, to honor and preserve the work of this important Russian psychologist. Antipoff moved to Brazil in 1929 and was one of the leaders in the establishment of psychological research psychology in the country. Professor Regina de Freitas Campos is the president of the Archives. The Work Group on the History of Psychology at the Brazilian Association for Research and Graduate Studies in Psychology brings together historians of psychology working at several Brazilian universities and is currently led by Professor William Barbosa Gomes.

Italy has also been the site of intense activity in the history of psychology over the last several years. Led by such scholars as Guido Cimino, Nino Dazzi, Giovanni Lombardo, Renato Foschi, and Elisabetta Cicciola, Italian historians of psychology have not only carefully documented the development of Italian psychology but have also greatly expanded our understanding of the history of psychology in many parts of Europe. In 2006, the prestigious Italian history of science journal, Physis: Revista Internazionale di Storia della Scienza (Physis: International Review of the History of Science), published a special 457 page issue on “The Rise of ‘Scientific’ Psychology within the Cultural, Social, and Institutional Contexts of European and Extra-European Countries Between the 19th and 20th Centuries.” Guido Cimino and Régine Plas served as editors.

In 2008, psychologist-historians in South Africa published a remarkable history of psychology there. Interiors: A history of psychology in South Africa was edited by Clifford van Ommen and Desmond Painter; the book’s 16 chapters offer a series of critical histories on many aspects of the development, organization, and application of psychology in South African life. An online historical overview of this book is available. In other nations, the efforts to develop histories of psychology are still in an early stage. In Lebanon, Samar Zebian of the Lebanese American University, is conducting a project that examines the history and development of psychology in the Arab world in order to understand why psychology has historically had a weak presence there.The well-known Indian psychologist, Girishwar Misra is now developing a historical project on psychology in post-Independence India, with a special focus on the contributions of the late Durganand Sinha. Ψ