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Palgrave Macmillan

A History of Self-Harm in Britain

A Genealogy of Cutting and Overdosing

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  • Open Access
  • © 2015

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Part of the book series: Mental Health in Historical Perspective (MHHP)

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About this book

This book is open access under a CC BY license and charts the rise and fall of various self-harming behaviours in twentieth-century Britain. It puts self-cutting and overdosing into historical perspective, linking them to the huge changes that occur in mental and physical healthcare, social work and wider politics.

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Table of contents (7 chapters)


"This is a brave and provocative book. By narrating the complex history of self-harm in the decades after the Second World War, Chris Millard achieves far more than simply illuminating what has become a prominent mental health issue for modern populations. He also encourages us to rethink how we conceive and write history and how we might better understand and question current political preferences for individualised, rather than social, explanations of mental distress. With a distinctive authorial voice, Millard's work provides a constructive model for the next generation of social historians of psychiatry." Mark Jackson, University of Exeter, UK

'Through a focus on Britain between the 1940s to the 1980s, Millard reveals how the self-harm subject was always more than a product of disembodied psychological and psychiatric theory and practice; it was inextricably a constructed part of changing social, political and ideological times. He thus defies the reigning ahistoricity and naturalization of the subject in its historiography, as well as challenges the current historically transcendent neurobiological constructions of self-harm. Acute and committed, this is critical history at its most productive.' Roger Cooter, Warwick University, UK

Authors and Affiliations

  • Queen Mary, University of London, UK

    Chris Millard

About the author

Chris Millard is Wellcome Trust Research Fellow at Queen Mary, University of London, UK, interested in Munchasuen syndromes (including Munchausen by Proxy and Munchausen by Internet), self-harm, attempted suicide and parity of esteem in mental health. He helps run the Carnival of Lost Emotions – engaging the public about the history of feelings.

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