Psychiatry and homosexuality in mid-twentieth-century Edinburgh: the view from Jordanburn Nerve Hospital

Roger Davidson

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There has been little historical research into the post-war treatment of homosexuality, especially in Scotland. Using surviving records from the Jordanburn Nerve Hospital (JNH) in Edinburgh for the 1950s, this paper sets out to rectify this omission. The views of homosexuality held by the psychiatrists, and the main treatment strategies adopted (categorized as hospitalization, suppression, reorientation/'cure', and adjustment) are surveyed and illustrated from particular cases. The Edinburgh experience is also compared with perceptions and practices relating to the treatment of homosexual problems in Glasgow. It is concluded that psychiatrists at the JNH adopted a cautious, ad hoc approach to therapy, reflecting both ideological and resource constraints and an attachment to taxonomies of deviance rooted in established notions of sexual pathology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)403-424
Number of pages22
JournalHistory of Psychiatry
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2009

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