The Leader pp 59-71 | Cite as

The Growth of Psychohistory

  • Charles B. Strozier
  • Daniel Offer


Erikson’s Young Man Luther opened a whole new phase in psychohistory. It became a highly controversial and visible endeavor for the literate public: one New Yorker cartoon in the mid-1970s pictured the locked door of a psychiatric unit with the label “Psychohistorian” above a small window. Among professional historians, profound skepticism developed along with ambivalent curiosity. No convention program after about 1970 was worth its salt without one or more avowedly psychohistorical sessions. The leading historical journals began publishing articles that made clear their dependence on psychoanalytic theory. Interest in psychohistory among psychiatrists and psychoanalysts was less dramatic or intense and also less ambivalent. Psychoanalytic applications to history had had a longer established and more secure place; such applications now simply increased. In 1962, Bruce Mazlish published the first collection of psychohistorical essays, an approach to publishing in the field that has since become quite popular.1 Periodic reviews of the literature and assessments of the “state of the art” became de rigeur for anyone who claimed to be “in” psychohistory.2 Nearly everyone had studied the field to as far back as 1958, when Erikson published Young Man Luther and William Langer summoned historians to their “next assignment.” Some, however, especially psychoanalysts such as Heinz Kohut and Robert Lifton, took a broader perspective, and gradually historians, too, began to place psychohistory in a longer time frame.


Atomic Bomb Cultural Revolution Vietnam Veteran Professional Historian Shared Theme 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Bruce Mazlish, Psychoanalysis and History. The other important collections of essays published during the last two decades include: Explorations in Psychohistory: The Well-fleet Papers, ed. Robert Jay Lifton (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1974); Varieties of Psychohistory, ed. George M. Kren and Leon H. Rappaport (New York: Springer, 1976); Psychoanalytic Interpretation of History, ed. Benjamin Wolman (New York: Basic Books, 1971); and four collections edited by Lloyd DeMause (all of dubious value): The History of Childhood (New York: The Psychohistory Press, 1974); The New Psychohistory (New York: The Psychohistory Press, 1975); (with Henry Ebel), Jimmy Carter and American Fantasy: Psychohistorical Exploration (New York: Psychohistory Press, 1977); and Foundations of Psychohistory (New York: Creative Roots, 1982). The promises and problems of collections without a theme are illustrated in New Directions in Psychohistory: The Adelphi Papers in Honor of Erik H. Erikman, ed. Mel Albin (Lexington: Lexington Books, 1980); andGoogle Scholar
  2. Robert J. Brugger, Our Selves, Our Past: Psychological Approaches to American History (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1981). Various journals, especially The Psychohistory Review, regularly publish collections of essays on a special topic, and less specialized journals, such as the American Historical Review or the Journal of Interdisciplinary History, occasionally devote whole issues to psychohistory.Google Scholar
  3. 2.
    It is only possible to mention here a few representative titles, arranged in chronological order. The best of the lot, an essay seldom read by historians but frequently cited and discussed by psychoanalysts, is Heinz Kohut, “Beyond the Bounds” (1960). Other essays include: Heinz Hartmann, “The Application of Psychoanalytic Concepts to Social Science,” Essays on Ego Psychology (New York: International Universities Press, 1964), 90–98Google Scholar
  4. Erik H. Erikson, “Psychoanalysis and Ongoing History,” American Journal of Psychiatry, 22 (1965), 241–250Google Scholar
  5. Richard Bushman, “On the Use of Psychohistory: Conflict and Conciliation in Benjamin Franklin,” History and Theory, 5 (1966), 225–240CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. John Klauber, “On the Dual Use of Historical and Scientific Method in Psychoanalysis,” International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 49 (1968), 80–88PubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Erik Erikson, “Autobiographic Notes on the Identity Crisis,” Daedulus, 99 (1970), 730–759Google Scholar
  8. John E. Mack, “Psychoanalysis and Historical Biography,” Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 19 (1971), 143–179PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bruce Mazlish, “Autobiography and Psychoanalysis: Between truth and Self-Deception,” Encounter, 35 (1970), 28–37; “What is Psychohistory?” Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, Fifth Series 21 (1971), 79-99; review essay of Mitzmon’s The Iron Cage, History and Theory, 10 (1970), 90-107Google Scholar
  10. Hans-Ulrich Wehler, Geschichte und Psychoanalyse, (Köln: Kiepenfeur und Witsch, 1971)Google Scholar
  11. Arnold Toynbee, “Aspects of Psychohistory,” Main Currents, 29 (1972), 44–46Google Scholar
  12. George Rosen, “Psyche and History,” Psychological Medicine, 2 (1972), 205–207PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Robert Detmeilar, “Retreat From Environmentalism: A Review of the Psychohistory of George III,” History Teacher, 6 (1972), 37–46CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fritz Schmidt, “Problems of Method in Applied Psychoanalysis,” Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 41 (1972), 402–419Google Scholar
  15. Philip Pomper, “Problems of a Naturalistic Psychohistory,” History and Theory, 12 (1973), 367–88CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Arthur Mitzman, “Social Engagement and Psycho-History,” Tydschrift voor Geschiedenis, 87 (1974), 425–442Google Scholar
  17. Perry Lewis, “Psychology and the Abolitionists: Reflections on Martin Duberman and the Neo-Abolitionist of the 1960s,” Reviews in American History, 2 (1974), 309–321CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Peter Loewenberg, “Psychohistorical Perspectives in Modern German History,” Journal of Modern History, 47 (1975), 229–279CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Fred Weinstein and Gerald Platt, “The Coming Crisis in Psychohistory,” Journal of Modern History, 47 (1975), 202–228CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Bruce Mazlish, “On Teaching History,” AHA Newsletter, 14 (1976), 5–8Google Scholar
  21. William M. Banks, “Psychohistory and the Black Psychologist,” Journal of Black Psychology, 2 (1976), 25–31Google Scholar
  22. Robert Pois, “Historicism, Marxism, and Psychohistory: Three Approaches to the Problem of Historical Individuality,” Social Science Journal, 13 (1976), 77–91Google Scholar
  23. Gerald M. Platt, “The Sociological Endeavor and Psychoanalytic Thought,” American Quarterly, 28 (1976), 343–359CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Fred Weinstein, “Benjamin Nelson’s Contribution to Psychosocial Perspectives,” Psychohistory Review, 5 (1976), 4–10PubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Bruce Mazlish, “Psychohistory and Politics,” Center Magazine, 10 (1977), 5–14Google Scholar
  26. Joseph I. Shulin, “Robespierre and the French Revolution: A Review Article,” American History Review, 82 (1977), 20–38CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. George M. Kren, “Psychohistorical Interpretation of National Socialism,” German Studies Review, 1 (1978), 150–172CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Donald J. Winslow, “Current Bibliography on Life-Writing,” Biography, 1 (1978), 76–81CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Paul W. Guyser, “Psychoanalytic Method in the Study of Religious Meanings,” Psychohistory Review, 6 (1978), 45–50Google Scholar
  30. Terry H. Anderson, “Becoming Sane With Psychohistory,” Historians, 41 (1978), 1–20CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Stephen D. Rockwood and Geoffrey Cocks, “The Use and Abuse of Psychohistory,” Journal of Psychohistory, 5 (1977), 131–138; Patrick G. Russell, “Psychohistory: An Object Relations Approach” (Unpublished PhD dissertation, The Ohio State University, 1980); andGoogle Scholar
  32. Bruce Mazlish, “The Next ‘Next Assignment’: Leader and Led, Individual and Group,” Psychohistory Review, 9 (1981), 137–214.Google Scholar
  33. 3.
    Robert Jay Lifton, Death In Life: Survivors of Hiroshima (New York: Vintage Books, 1967); Revolutionary Immortality: Mao Tse-tung and the Chinese Cultural Revolution (New York: Vintage Books, 1968); Home From the War: Vietnam Veterans, Neither Victims Nor Executioners (New York: Simon & Shuster, 1973). Note also The Broken Connection: On Death and the Continuity of Life (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1979; paperback, Basic Books, 1983).Google Scholar
  34. 4.
    Peter Loewenberg, “The Psychohistorical Origins of the Nazi Youth Cohort,” American Historical Review, 76 (1971), 1457–1502CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Rudolph Binion, Hitler Among The Germans, (New York: Elsevier, 1976)Google Scholar
  36. Kai Erikson, Wayward Puritans: A Study in the Sociology of Deviance (New York: Wiley, 1960)Google Scholar
  37. Charles B. Strozier, Lincoln’s Quest For Union: Public and Private Meanings (New York: Basic Books, 1982)Google Scholar
  38. Peter Gay, The Bourgeois Experience, Vol. I of Education of the Senses (New York: Oxford University Press, 1984).Google Scholar
  39. 5.
    John P. Demos, A Little Commonwealth: Family Life in Plymouth Colony (New York: Oxford University Press, 1970); and Entertaining Satan: Witchcraft and the Culture of Early New England (New York: Oxford University Press, 1982).Google Scholar
  40. 6.
    Carroll Smith-Rosenberg, “The Female World of Love and Ritual: Relations Between Women in Nineteenth-Century America,” Signs, 1 (1975), 1–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. 7.
    Special Issue, Psychohistory Review (1979); Lloyd DeMause, The New Psychohistory, p. 4; Patrick Hutton, “The Psychohistory of Erik Erikson From the Perspective of Collective Mentalities,” Psychohistory Review, 12 (1983), 18–25.Google Scholar
  42. 8.
    The publisher, Oxford University Press, shared the galleys of the book with Charles Strozier before publication.Google Scholar
  43. 9.
    Stannard, Shrinking History, p. 147.Google Scholar
  44. 10.
    Note, for example, ibid., the discussion of Erikson, pp. 22-24 and of John Demos, pp. 119-121.Google Scholar
  45. 11.
    Note the discussion forum of Stannard’s book organized by Charles Strozier, Psychohistory Review, 9 (1980), 136–161.Google Scholar
  46. 12.
    John Leonard, book review of Shrinking History, The New York Times, 26 May, 1980, Book review section.Google Scholar
  47. 13.
    David E. Stannard, The Puritan Way of Death: A Study in Religion, Culture, and Social Change (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980).Google Scholar
  48. 14.
    Ibid., 33.Google Scholar
  49. 15.
    Ibid., 60.Google Scholar
  50. 16.
    Ibid., 138.Google Scholar
  51. 17.
    Ibid., 138.Google Scholar
  52. 18.
    Gary Wills, Chicago Sun Times, 20 Jan. 1978.Google Scholar
  53. 19.
    Erikson, Young Man Luther, p. 110.Google Scholar
  54. 20.
    James Thomas Flexner, George Washington, 4 volumes, Vol. I: The Forge of Experience (Boston: Little, Brown, 1965), p. 31, for example.Google Scholar
  55. 21.
    Don E. Fehrenbacher, “Lincoln and the Weight of Responsibility,” Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, 68 (1975), p. 53 and p. 58.Google Scholar
  56. 22.
    Robert G. L. Waite, The Psychopathic God: Adolf Hitler (New York: Basic Books, 1977), p. xiii.Google Scholar
  57. 23.
    DeMause, The New Psychohistory, p. 4.Google Scholar
  58. 24.
    Fred Weinstein and Gerald Platt, Psychoanalytic Sociology, p. 1, note 1.Google Scholar
  59. 25.
    DeMause, The New Psychohistory, p. 23.Google Scholar
  60. 26.
    DeMause and Beisel, Jimmy Carter, p. 63.Google Scholar
  61. 27.
    Ibid., 26.Google Scholar
  62. 28.
  63. 29.
    Two excellent reviews of the literature have appeared in the last decade: Hans Gatzke, “Hitler and Psychohistory: A Review Article,” American Historical Review, 78 (1973), 394–401; and Peter Loewenberg, “Psychohistorical Perspectives...” Note alsoCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Saul Friedländer, History and Psychoanalysis (New York: Holmes and Meir, 1978).Google Scholar
  65. 30.
    Hoffman, “Psychoanalytic Interpretations...”Google Scholar
  66. 31.
    Walter C. Langer, The Mind of Adolf Hitler: The Secret Wartime Report (New York: New American Library, 1973).Google Scholar
  67. 32.
    Henry V. Dicks, “Personality Traits and National Socialist Ideology: A Wartime Study of German Prisoners of War,” Human Relations (1950), 111-154 (this became, later, Licensed Mass Murder: A Socio-psychological Study of Some SS Killers, (New York, 1972); Eugene Lerner, “Pathological Nazi Stereotypes Found in Recent German Technical Journals,” Journal of Psychology, 13 (1942), 187–92; Bertram Schaffner, Father Land: A Study of Authoritarianism in the German Family, (New York, 1948)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Paul Keczkemeti and Nathan Leites, “Some Psychological Hypotheses on Nazi Germany,” Journal of Social Psychology, 26, part 2 (November, 1947), 141–83; 27, part 1 (February 1948), 91-117; 27, part 2 (May, 1948), 241-70; 28, part 1 (August, 1948), 141-64; David C. McClelland, The Roots of Consciousness (New York, 1964).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. 33.
    James H. McRandle, The Tracks of the Wolf (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1965)Google Scholar
  70. Alexander Mitscherlich, Society Without The Father: A Contribution to Social Psychology, trans. Eric Mosbacker (New York: Schocken Books, 1970)Google Scholar
  71. Peter Loewenberg, “The Psychohistorical Origins...,” and “The Unsuccessful Adolescence of Heinrich Himmler,” American Historical Review, 76 (1971), 612–641; Rudolph Binion, Hitler Among the Germans; Robert G. L. Waite, The Psychopathic God CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Saul Friedländer, L’Antisémitisme Nazi: Histoire d’une psychose collective (Paris: Le Senil, 1971).Google Scholar
  73. 34.
    For example, Robert C. Tucker, Stalin as Revolutionary, 1829–1929, (New York: Norton, 1973); andGoogle Scholar
  74. Bruce Mazlish, James and John Stuart Mill: Father and Son in The Nineteenth Century (London: Hutchinson, 1975). The best bibliographic listing of psychohistorical material in European history is Friedländer, History and Psychoanalysis.Google Scholar
  75. 35.
    See, for example, Gordon Fellman, “Leaf in a Storm: Jayaprakash Narayan as Politician and as Saint,” Psychohistory Review, 9 (1981), 183–213; and the essay by Muslin and Desai in this volume.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  76. 36.
    Brugger, ed. Our Selves, Our Past; Albin, ed., New Directions. Note two special issues of The Psychohistory Review: “American Culture,” 10 (1982) and “Psychological Studies of the James Family,” 8 (1979).Google Scholar
  77. 37.
    Strozier, Lincoln’s Quest for Union; Erikson, Dimensions.Google Scholar
  78. 38.
    Robert Jay Lifton, Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: A Study of ‘Brainwashing’ in China, (New York: Norton, 1971); History and Human Survival (New York: Random House, 1970); Death in Life; and Home From the War.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • Charles B. Strozier
  • Daniel Offer

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations