Ruth Caplan, an historian, and her father, Dr. Gerald Caplan, a distinguished Harvard psychiatrist interested in preventive and community psychiatry, started this book as a study of mid 20th-century psychiatry. In an attempt to understand the social and historical roots of current trends, the Caplans found themselves increasingly drawn into the 19th century. The present book is the result. Although the study gives brief coverage of the earlier period, their attention deepens at mid century, when their chief primary source becomes the American Journal of Insanity (1844-1908).
The authors' original focus and final concern—current psychiatry—is fortunately discussed explicitly. For many, it will be rewarding first to read the concluding chapter titled "Ebb and Flow" and then Dr. Caplan's epilogue—his personal reflections on the implications of this history—before reading the main text. "Environment" is approached in two senses: the ways the professional, ie, the psychiatrist and his associates, reflects and reacts