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  • Book
  • Open Access
  • © 2015

A History of Self-Harm in Britain

A Genealogy of Cutting and Overdosing

Palgrave Macmillan


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

Buying options

Softcover Book USD 23.00
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Hardcover Book USD 31.00
Price excludes VAT (USA)

Table of contents (7 chapters)

  1. Front Matter

    Pages i-ix
  2. Communicative Self-Harm: War, NHS and Social Work

    • Chris Millard
    Pages 62-96Open Access
  3. Self-Harm as a Result of Domestic Distress

    • Chris Millard
    Pages 120-153Open Access
  4. Self-Harm as Self-Cutting: Inpatients and Internal Tension

    • Chris Millard
    Pages 154-191Open Access
  5. Back Matter

    Pages 212-268

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.


  • Self-harm
  • Open Access
  • self-cutting
  • overdosing
  • attempted suicide
  • history of medicine
  • history of psychiatry
  • psychiatry
  • liaison psychiatry
  • Suicide Act
  • Mental Health Act
  • social work
  • National Health Service
  • Accident and Emergency
  • welfare state
  • neoliberalism
  • health
  • neurobiology
  • service
  • stress
  • suicide


"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.

Bibliographic Information

Buying options

Softcover Book USD 23.00
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Hardcover Book USD 31.00
Price excludes VAT (USA)