Present and Past: Jervis Interest for History

Patrizia Guarnieri


The mid-1970s saw in italy a growing interest for the history of psychiatry, both among historians and psychiatrists, often in the context of the mounting struggle for the abolition of asylums. My aim here is to show the originality of Jervis position in this regard. Already in 1967, in a period dominated by silence over the past of psychiatry, Jervis affirmed the importance of history for the critique of the present. his warning remained crucial in the following years; as the psychiatry looked at the past mostly in order to condemn it, Jervis emphasised the importance of understanding historical change, both in the distant and recent past. Looking at Jervis allows us to engage with history and memory, ideological diatribes and reassessments. it is in this perspective that several of his writings are examined here, encompassing both historical analyses and occasional autobiographical and personal notes. 

Key words: History of Italian psychiatry - History of psychoanalysis - Giovanni Jervis - Basaglias law

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