Psychoanalysis is commonly regarded as emerging during an ‘originary decade’ (in the 1890s and early 1900s) during which Freud’s self-analysis led to the Interpretation of Dreams, with fin-de-siècle Vienna being the primary scene for this efflorescence.
We will explore an alternative locale, Britain, beginning with the ways in which Freud’s virtually unknown British family – particularly his brothers Emanuel and Philipp – shaped his world view. Freud’s experience of and reflections on such relationships materially contributed to his theorisation of psychic life, to drives, to idealisation and denigration, and to the Oedipus complex among other areas.
On these hitherto silent foundations, we then move on to consider the public and professional take-up of Freud’s ideas in Britain before, during, and immediately after the First World War. The received history of psychoanalysis in Britain during this period has tended to situate Ernest Jones centre stage, an unsurprising hegemonic position given Jones’s character, his role as a leading author and informant of such histories, and his supposed status as last man standing.
As a counterpoint to this distorted narrative, we shall foreground a series of key institutions (including the London Psycho-Analytic Society, the Brunswick Square Clinic, and the War Hospitals at Maghull and Craiglockhart), alongside pioneering though now largely ‘forgotten’ individuals, who collectively articulated Freudian ideas to a public who were hungry for a new psychology before, during, and especially in the wake of the First World War.
Psychoanalytic theory and praxis was itself transformed over this period and we will look at some of the ways in which this occurred, particularly with respect to the conceptualisation of sexuality and trauma.