© 2016

A Critical History of Schizophrenia


Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-ix
  2. Kieran McNally
    Pages 1-13
  3. Kieran McNally
    Pages 14-20
  4. Kieran McNally
    Pages 21-38
  5. Kieran McNally
    Pages 39-67
  6. Kieran McNally
    Pages 68-85
  7. Kieran McNally
    Pages 86-108
  8. Kieran McNally
    Pages 109-126
  9. Kieran McNally
    Pages 127-146
  10. Kieran McNally
    Pages 147-167
  11. Kieran McNally
    Pages 168-196
  12. Kieran McNally
    Pages 197-210
  13. Kieran McNally
    Pages 211-211
  14. Back Matter
    Pages 213-269

About this book


Schizophrenia was psychiatry's arch concept of madness in the twentieth century. However, it was a concept that was both surprisingly problematic and contentious.

This book explores schizophrenia's instability, as the concept changed across the 20th century. It moves beyond sensational accounts of kids on LSD and split personalities, to detail schizophrenia's historically problematic definition, diagnosis, and symptom profile. In doing so, Kieran McNally documents the social uses of the concept, its regional variations, and its fluctuating subtypes. And finally, the book explains how, and why, North American psychiatry sought to improve the concept in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), by introducing group sanctioned operational definitions.

This book reveals a tradition of critical unease towards the concept of schizophrenia and it reveals that criticism of the concept was consistently voiced by many leading schizophrenia researchers - and not just by 'anti-psychiatrists'. It becomes clear that at no stage in its history was schizophrenia thought to be beyond improvement.


Schizophrenia antipsychiatry history madness psychiatry psychology clinical psychology critical psychology history of science medicine personality psychopathology schizophrenia

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.University College DublinIreland

About the authors

Kieran McNally previously studied and worked at the Institute of Psychiatry, London, UK. He is currently Adjunct Lecturer in Psychology at University College Dublin, Ireland, specializing in the history of psychiatry. He is also the author of the ecological and social history, The Island Imagined by the Sea.

Bibliographic information


“McNally’s overall goal—to analyze critically all attempts to define and delineate schizophrenia—is admirable. His attention to detail and his ability to reflect deeply on primary sources are clear strengths of his work. A Critical History of Schizophrenia will no doubt encourage greater awareness of the variability, inconsistency, and unpredictability of the concept of schizophrenia over time. This is a very important task, to which this book contributes a great deal.” (Bonnie Evans, ISIS, Vol. 108 (4), 2017)

“I have been gleefully reading Kieran McNally's book on the history of schizophrenia, which turns out to be a compendium of great detail and fascination. … It makes the book enormously valuable both as a treasure trove (in addition to an almost 30 page long reference section, there is a further 10 pages of recommended reading) and as a contribution to our understanding of this unwieldy but influential idea.” (Psychodiagnosticator,, December, 2016)

“This is a text that should be prescribed reading for all entering the mental health professions. It acts as a helpful antidote to the ahistorical certainty of many textbooks and many training courses.” (Pádraig Collins, PsycCRITIQUES, Vol. 61 (4), 2016)