Reconstructing a twentieth-century Scottish psychiatrist: Thomas Ferguson Rodger, “Wartime psychiatry”, “Eclecticism”, and “Mad dreaming”

Phelan, Sarah Mary (2018) Reconstructing a twentieth-century Scottish psychiatrist: Thomas Ferguson Rodger, “Wartime psychiatry”, “Eclecticism”, and “Mad dreaming”. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

Due to Embargo and/or Third Party Copyright restrictions, this thesis is not available in this service.
Printed Thesis Information:


This PhD explores the contribution to psychiatry of Thomas Ferguson Rodger (1907–1978), first Professor of Psychological Medicine at the University of Glasgow (1948–1973) and consultant psychiatrist at several Glasgow hospitals. Rodger is a somewhat neglected figure in the history of Scottish psychiatry, yet his career spanned - and in some measure also shaped - an important period of transformation as traditional asylum-based psychiatry was challenged by emergent general hospital- and community-based psychiatry. Rodger’s personal archive, including lecture notes, patient case notes, correspondence and miscellaneous items, has recently been catalogued by the University of Glasgow Archives through funding from the Wellcome Trust. This study comprises a forensic reading/interpretation of this archive, alongside oral histories with individuals who remember him and his immediate legacy in/beyond the University. Adopting perspectives drawn from the history/geography of psychiatry and medical humanities, it reconstructs Rodger’s life, ideas and practices, set within the changing ‘spaces’ of mid-twentieth century psychiatric medicine.
This thesis reads across Rodger’s papers as well as sources within other repositories, allowing themes to emerge and develop which form the basis for discrete case studies in twentieth-century psychiatry. Rodger’s career, as reconstructed from his archive, provides a compelling aperture into psychiatric developments of the interwar, Second World War and post-war periods respectively. Beginning in the Second World War, it elaborates upon the link between Rodger’s and his fellow military psychiatrists’ endeavours in personnel selection and the inception of the therapeutic community model at Northfield Military Hospital in Birmingham. Foregrounding how the therapeutic ideals of the psychiatrists were subordinated to military aims and tradition, it speculates upon Rodger’s post-war re-envisioning of psychiatry as at least in part a reaction to the limited application of their techniques during wartime. The thesis then moves to the changing post-war therapeutic landscape, situating Rodger’s eclectic psychiatry within the context of deinstitutionalisation and the therapeutic armamentarium of ostensibly divergent physical and psychological methods. It complicates eclectic psychiatry’s straightforward descent from Meyer’s and Henderson’s dynamic psychiatry by positioning it as a response to the challenge of deinstitutionalisation in balancing between contrasting treatment methods, and additionally as a critical acknowledgement of the uncertainty afflicting understandings of mental disorder, especially with respect to the efficacy of physical therapies. Finally, the thesis returns to the earliest phase of Rodger’s career for which archival evidence exists: his times as Deputy Superintendent at Glasgow Royal Mental Hospital in the 1930s, when he was experimentally examining the resonances of psychoanalytic theories in his own work framed by the psychiatric pessimism of the time. Through discussion of dream analytic sessions, it elucidates Rodger’s dissatisfaction with psychoanalysis’ failure to account for environmental difficulties and stresses Rodger’s adoption of a more pragmatic ‘common-sense’ therapeutic attitude. Collectively, the thesis underlines Rodger’s self-critical stance towards his profession and his developing conviction about the significance of social/environmental and cultural factors in the causation and cure of mental distress.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Due to confidentiality issues this thesis is not available for viewing.
Keywords: Thomas Ferguson Rodger, Scottish psychiatry, psychoanalysis, psychotherapy, biography, wartime psychiatry, medical humanities, history of medicine.
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Critical Studies > English Literature
College of Science and Engineering > School of Geographical and Earth Sciences > Geography
Funder's Name: Lord Kelvin Adam Smith PhD scholarship, University of Glasgow
Supervisor's Name: Miller, Dr. Gavin and Philo, Prof. Christopher
Date of Award: 2018
Embargo Date: 17 August 2026
Depositing User: Dr Sarah Mary Phelan
Unique ID: glathesis:2018-30740
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 20 Aug 2018 15:34
Last Modified: 24 May 2024 14:20
Related URLs:

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year