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July 19, 1971

The Psychoanalytic Interpretation of History

Author Affiliations

American Medical Association Chicago


edited by Benjamin B. Wolman, 240 pp, $8.95, New York: Basic Books, Inc., 1971.

JAMA. 1971;217(3):345. doi:10.1001/jama.1971.03190030069032

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This book is an extraordinary hybrid, divided into two parts. The first, "Interpretation of History," has four discursive essays that between them deal, in one or another way, with art, literature, literary criticism, sociology, methodology of science, the complexity of man, mythology, scattered historical events, and various disjointed topics. The contribution of Dr. Wolman, the editor, entitled "Sense and Nonsense in History," is particularly disjointed. I can discern no common thread in part 1. Granted that "history" is a most complex term, and very patient of almost any interpretation, I still cannot understand how this group of essays can justify the title.

However, the second part, "Biographical Studies," is closely knit. It contains three essays which offer a psychoanalytical approach to Stalin, Theodor Herzl, and the anti-Semitism of Adolph Hitler. The study of Herzl is an outstanding contribution, while the analysis of Hitler's anti-Semitism is a close second. The authors