Psychohistory is the study of the psychological motivations of historical events. It attempts to combine the insights of psychotherapy with the research methodology of the social sciences to understand the emotional origin of the social and political behavior of groups and nations, past and present. Its subject matter is childhood and the family, and psychological studies of anthropology and ethnology.
In Psychohistory: Theory and Practice (1999), Jacques Szaluta defines psychohistory as “the application of psychology, in its broadest sense, or psychoanalysis in a specific sense, to the study of the past.” Henry Lawton in The Psychohistorian’s Handbook (1988) describes it as “the interdisciplinary study of why man has acted as he has in history, prominently utilizing psychoanalytic principles.” He adds that psychohistory “is essentially interpretive” rather than narrative.
Sigmund Freud’s well known work, Civilization and Its Discontents (1929), included an analysis of history based on his theory of psychoanalysis. Wilhelm Reich combined his psychoanalytic and political theories in his book The Mass Psychology of Fascism in 1933.
The psychologist and philosopher Erich Fromm wrote about the psychological motivation behind political ideology, starting with The Fear of Freedom in 1941.
Theodor Adorno published The Authoritarian Personality, in 1950, which was an influential sociological book which could be taken as something of a proto-psychohistorical book.
Its first academic use appeared in Erik Erikson's book Young Man Luther (1958), where the author called for a discipline of "psycho-history" to examine the impact of human character on history.
Lloyd deMause developed a formal psychohistorical approach from 1974 onwards, and continues to be an influential theorist in this field.
The International Psychohistorical Association (IPA) was founded in 1977 by Lloyd de Mause, Paul Elovitz, David Beisel, Henry Lawton and others. Our basic goals are to further the study and teaching of psychohistory Our worldwide membership comes from many fields – history, psychoanalysis, art, law, education, psychology, social work,
business, anthropology, political science, sociology, film making, psychiatry, literature, family therapy, journalism, and more. The educational attainment of our membership is similarly variable, ranging from Ph.D.s and MDs to high school students. The IPA’s annual convention draws scholars and students from across the United States, Europe, and other parts of the world. In addition to
producing our conference, website, and newsletter, the IPA recently weighed in on one of the most pressing social and policy issues of our day, the problem of violence and what
can be done about it. Here is our statement “How to End Violence in America”. We hope you will find this a valuable resource for education and advocacy.
Here are some further ways to connect with the IPA and our members:
- Psychohistory News, our quarterly newsletter.
- The Clio’s Psyche listserve, an online psychohistory discussion group independent of the IPA but involving many of our members.
- The Journal of Psychohistory. A peer reviewed journal independent of the IPA but publishing the work of many of our members.
- Clio's Psyche. Another independent journal publishing essays by IPA members.
- Our annotated bibliography of books and articles in the field.
- If you have questions or comments about psychohistory, the IPA, or this website, we would love to hear from you…
souvik raychaudhuri m sc. phd mspa (usa), associate professor, department of psychology, university of calcutta is the indian member of ipa. for any details/queries feel free to contact him:
firstname.lastname@example.org ; email@example.com