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June 27, 1977

Origins of Concepts in Human Behavior: Social and Cultural Factors

JAMA. 1977;237(26):2856. doi:10.1001/jama.1977.03270530064033

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In 11 essays, Altschule discusses a variety of psychiatric historical topics. He reports at length on seventh century Isidore of Sentle's description of depression and on George Cheyne's 18th century report of the "English Malady," which is also depression. He tells of the Huron Indians' ideas about dreams and the unconscious, which strangely foreshadow Freud's. Acupuncture in 19th century America, the case history of James Tilly Matthews, and the pneuma concept of the soul are among other topics treated.

The entire work shows evidence of much scholarly research and includes lengthy quotations from little-known sources. It is well written, with delightful touches of wit. Not all historians or psychiatrists will agree with Altschule's interpretations, especially since he seems to use his historical material as a basis for expressing his prejudices against psychoanalysis and most other aspects of contemporary psychiatric practice.