‘Psychotherapy in Practice’: Dr John Springthorpe – Melbourne Physician – Australasian Medical Congress -1924.


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What did the Australian medical profession actually say about Freud and psychoanalysis during the 1920s? Why was there so much antipathy towards it? In an attempt to understand this, I have been reading the Australasian Medical Journals from the early twentieth century. John Springthorpe was a former lecturer in Medicine at the University of Melbourne, recognised for his interest in psychotherapy, and the relationship between mind and body, had some thoughts which he delivered at the Australasian Medical Congress in 1924. Springthorpe was one of the most senior practitioners of medicine in Melbourne Australia from 1883 until his death in 1933. In this paper, Springthorpe is most scathing about Freud’s thought as he asserts the superiority of his own methods, derived, in part from the practice of hypnosis. These are the trio: analysis, suggestion and re-education. Here are some of the statements Springthorpe made about his theory of mind, the practice of psychotherapy and psychoanalysis and Freud.


‘Psychotherapy is very complex…. the present position is very complex. It involves heredity, psychical as well as physical, comparative physiology and anthropology, the relations of mind to matter, of instinct to intelligence, of the conscious to the unconscious, of the place of the emotions, the intelligence and the will, of the endocrine glands and the sympathetic nervous system; upon each and all of which each must satisfy himself’.

‘ There is advantage, also, in co ordinating, if possible, all under one guiding principle – just as matter and life have been brought under their unities of origin. To state my own opinion upon this even more open question without dogmatism, I may say that I find myself a psychical monist and regard it probable that our mind, though at present confined in limited material setting, informed as to realities by a few imperfect scouts and reacting through material expressions, but possibly destined after trial and testing ultimately and always to use their little freedom of will in accord with the supreme’.

‘In psychotherapy two intellects are concerned, the operator’s and the patient’s, and, of course, the ingenuity of the former should be used purely for the needs of the latter. Psychoanalysis is thus doubly personal. It is interesting to note that whilst Freud basis his analysis on a fundamental emotion, Coue, ends his suggestion with “Know thyself”‘.

‘In my experience each patient should suggest his own analysis and any set plan is inadvisable’.

‘Each case is a case to itself and there are no watertight classifications… For pushing analysis into the subconscious. the main methods are the “relaxation and mild hypnotism” of Haydn Brown, the “auto-Hypnosis” of Coue, the deep hypnosis of Bramwell,and the “psychoanalysis” of Freud…. In my experience, however, the need thus analytically “tapping the unconscious” is rare; therapeutically the subconscious requires rather to be influenced by indirect than to be controlled by direct suggestion’.

‘Freud’s psychoanalysis calls for special attention. It mus suffice here to say that his view of causation is now abandoned, save by a few extremists, in favour of the wider and more applicable post-Freudian, that his his methods of procedure ( free association, word association, symbolic interpretation, dream analysis and so forth) are now held to be rarely necessary, often misleading, at times dangerous and almost always cumbersome and tedious, whilst his views on repression and mental conflicts seem largely overstatements and in some cases contrary to definite laws. The value of his contribution to the position is, thus, that of an investigator not of an interpreter and at bottom his methods tend to an intellectual misdirection of fundamental suggestions. His ‘Symbols’ again can prove anything that is in the mind of the operator. And as regards the actual results, it would be amusing if it were not pathetic to see psycho-analysts laboriously seeking and proudly proclaiming results that are often producible to even greater advantage and in a fraction of the time by simpler forms of suggestion. After all treatment by analysis is pre-eminently the province of an educated profession not of the academician or theologian’.

John Springthorpe, ( 1924), Psychotherapy in Practice, in Transactions of Congress, Supplement to the Medical Journal of Australia, 21 June 1924, pp, 448-451.

Bedlam at Botany Bay – and the beginning of an ‘insular’ Australia?



James Dunk, (2019) Bedlam at Botany Bay, Sydney, Newsouth Publishing.

I have been pondering isolation. Not the personal state of mind as such, but the complaint often made by Australia’s early psychoanalysts about their isolation from the British and European Centres. In the process of forming psychoanalysis in Australia (Salo 2011) the question was about how to meet the necessary standards of practice and thought about psychoanalysis when it is believed these are not known – and it is all too far away to find out, let alone be in touch with the latest developments. Then there is isolation and distance within Australia and New Zealand… how does each separate state develop its practice as a member of the various bodies that constitute psychoanalysis in this country? For psychoanalysis, theory of mind begun by Freud, and in the century since, embodies a far reaching theory of experiencing and developmental formation. For the Australians in particular, psychoanalysis has not had an easy relationship with the medical profession – certainly not in its early decades of the twentieth century when the Australian based medicals spurned it in favour of organic approaches to mental distress. At base, I tentatively suggest, is not just the foundational story of convict settlement and the development of the land of the unwanted, ( Hook 2012), but also the very response of the Transportees and their overseers to the fact of forced rupture from a homeland, possibly never to return. Such a settlement on Mars would evoke phantasies of unassailable space, methinks. Perhaps this was so when Botany Bay was begun? This leads me to the University of Sydney’s James Dunk’s 2019 book, Bedlam at Botany Bay. This is a study not just of madness and insanity, but its causes and the way it expressed and reflected the structures of the Transportee plight, and the developing governance of the colony. Madness is another, hidden, dimension of settler invasion. It reaches for the fact that the year 1788 for the Australian First Nations people AND for the colonial invaders, that the trauma of personal internal rupture was experienced by members of both groups.

Unsurprisingly, some of the early settlers who arrived from 1788, in the prison colony at Port Jackson up the coast from the first landing point, Botany Bay, at what is now Sydney Harbour, Australia, lost their minds. Transported from Britain to an alien land at the far end of the earth, the al called ‘Antipodes’ on the other side of the globe, they were almost as far as one could go before beginning the return journey, Home. Picture their first sightings of a kangaroo, a wombat or a possum. Trees and foliage so different from anything at home, and the seasons back to front. During those first days a thunder storm cracked the skies open, pouring rain, as if God’s wrath found its expression upon these alienated people ‘perched at the edge of the Pacific’. Anyone who has experienced such a Sydney summer thunderstorm knows what that is like. Think how terrifying it would have been.

We have learned that the Eora people who lived around the landing space when the invading settlers arrived were pushed aside. That the initial ‘dancing with strangers’ described by the historian Inga Clendinnen, (2003) soon gave way to suspicion and hostility. The invaders felled trees, killed prey, and decimated the lands the Eora had cared for for centuries. There was violence, and retaliation alongside curiosity and some attempts at reconciliation. But in the end the invaders and First Nations people retreated to their different worlds as the invaders erected houses, made roads, mapping country according to their own traditions.

Historian James Dunk has added another dimension to the Botany Bay story. He draws out attention to peoples’ emotional reactions and how some were driven mad.

‘ If we slow down, however, and listen closely, we find that doubt, anxiety, grief and despair intrude into these familiar stories’,he writes. ‘ Some became irrational and could no longer govern themselves, or be governed by others. They erupted into mania, or lost themselves in memories and delusions. They cried in fury and tore at the walls of their cells, or stared slack eyed into the distance. Some were consumed by the pressures weighing upon them, and killed themselves. Others simply wandered away. These were all signal problems in such a setting, where discipline, security and industry were fundamental to the business of fragile government’ (pp.2-3).

Images of the gibbets hung with so called miscreants, the whipping posts, and, eventually another form of brutality transportation to outlying islands – Norfolk, Pitcairn, or Van Diemans Land, testify to another battle – between the administrators with their official forms and procedures and the convict groups. Among them were those deeply mentally distressed people who, as hope faded, tried to fight – or whose loss of mind was expressed by ‘anti social behaviours’. The punishment was severe for them. They didn’t have the luck to be overtly insane.

’Studying madness’, Dunk writes, ‘shows the fault lines of societies. It is a subject which never loses its relevance because these fault lines still run around us like scars, the outward signs of an endemic disorder which reaches not only down into the belly of who we are but back into the paths we followed to get there’ ( 8).

Dunk’s study of colonial insanity, the development of the Asylum, the use of former convicts as attendants also raises questions about the evolution of psychiatry in this land. Is the stress on organic factors in the aetiology of mental distress, and the sidelining of Freud, and the psychotherapies that we see in the Australian medical men during the 1920s, when Freud’s ideas were gaining currency, somehow an evolution of anxieties about the management of mental distress? So far from home, patient and doctor share an experience of profound loss and personal rupture. At the Australasian Medical Congress of 1924 the prominent Melbourne doctor, John Springthorpe was eager to place Freud’s ideas, so far away in Europe, as losing currency.

An asylum was built early on after settlement, hoping to restrain and contain the more observable effects of transportation: the depression, anxiety and sheer loss of minds the result of families and minds ruptured by the trauma of indefinite separation. Perhaps, for some, an underlying mental illness emerged into the open. Or the plain sheer irrationality of transportation and the experience of being at the mercy of despotic officials, was the cause. The question is about what it was like to be in such a place, and space as colonial settler Australia? But the agency and subjectivity of the Transportees, was rarely incorporated into a lexicon of understanding. Instead there was brutality and abuse by managers who thought little of the beatings they meted out to those they considered far lower, less than human than them. For here, at this classical stage of history, convicts may have been subjects of theories of being, rendering them lower on scales of humanity such as the Great Chain of Being. During the nineteenth century as Social Darwinist theory found its expression in theories of mind articulated by Henry Maudsley, asserting some inherent, inherited biological fault. It limited recognition of Transportee agency and experience, alongside the minds of free settlers. Such ideas have been inscribed into a history building rendering Australia as Antipodean, always peripheral and opposite a British Centre.

‘ In a society built around discipline, magistrates, officers, judges, and governors charged with establishing order saw madness not as an illness, but as a perilous chaos. If they were sometimes moved to deal gently with the insane, at other times they were not, and the shifting structures of law and government ( typical of a penal society) left room for their discretion. There were many who suffered doubly, from the discipline and from the internal damage it wrought in them. Compounded suffering appeared to be the price of the colonial order’ (238).

Dunk’s lens, exploring the experiences of those men, women, and children, sent abroad from their homeland, serves to challenge such phantasies. But also, he suggests that the iron rule of governance set firm boundaries around them, defining them yet again as outsiders whose experiencing was scarcely recognised. Australia, a land girt by sea, has mapped itself into a space with iron borders. The oceans unmapped, as Suvendrini Perera (2009) shows, are unmapped are hindrances to connection rather than a relational space with connections to Asian spaces. Phantasies of Australia’s and isolation and insularity prevail. Australia’s isolation is not much more than an a settler creation, and state of mind.


Inga Clendinnen, (2003) Dancing with strangers, Melbourne, Text Publishing.

Maria Therese Hook, (2012) The Tyranny of Distance: the early history of APAS, Psychoanalysis Downunder

Suvendrini Perera (2009), Australia and the insular imagination: beaches, borders, boats and bodies, Palgrave McMillan.

Frances Thomson Salo, (2011), Australia: the evolving relationship with the IPA, in Peter Loewenberg and Nellie L Thompson. 100 years of the IPA: The centenary history of the International Psychoanalytical Association 1910-1920, London, Karnac.

John Springthorpe, in the Proceedings of the Australasian Medical Congress, 1924.

Women and psychoanalysis in Australia- Agnes Mildred Avery (1881-1944): Chairman of a Company Board – Advocate for Psychoanalysis


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The National Library of Australia’s digitized newspaper collection reveals people whose lives were richly lived. They have contributed much and then been forgotten. Agnes Avery (1881-1944) was an early, if not the first woman company director in Australia. She was also, it seems, a member of the British Institute of Psychoanalysis in 1936… but this needs verification. Certainly she was influenced by psychoanalysis. Had she lived longer who knows what difference she would have made.


In the early 1930s before she went to England and a life changing encounter with psychoanalysis, Mrs Agnes Avery of Adelaide could be described as a rich widow. Mother of five, she claimed expertise in the care and raising of children and was a member of Adelaide’s Psychology Club. She moved in Adelaide’s upper social circles, giving lectures to the Liberal Club, to fundraisers for the Lady Mayoress, lending her presence to philanthropic efforts in that city. These were ‘commonsense and witty lectures’, advocating freedom of thought for children, discouraging indulgence and the spoiling of the little ones, and urging mothers to, basically stop whingeing and get on with it. When, in May 1932 she departed on a lecture tour to London via Africa, with several children in tow, the columnists celebrated her future success and reported upon her activities during her journey through Africa to London. If the social columnists of the day are to be taken seriously, Mrs Avery was a woman of Empire, confident of her views, positive in her approach, and a leader in her field.

After reaching London she visited AS Neill’s ‘free school’ for children. Run on psychoanalytic principles the school was a exemplar of successful pedagogic psychoanalysis. It provided a safe, containing environment for children needing supportive and analytic treatment. ‘Mrs. Avery said that A. S. Neill’s book “The Problem Parent” should be read by every mother and father. “In the hands of the ‘right person child psychology is a power for great good,” said- Mrs. Avery. But, she warned, “in the hands of charlatans it can do tremendous evil.”

A second meeting, with the psychoanalyst, Dr David Eder, was more significant for her. She had consulted Eder, a founder member of the British Psychoanalytical Society. Renowned for his work on war shocked soldiers during the Great War, Jewish born, Eder was a socialist, – a former member of the Bloomsbury Socialist Group, and a Zionist, and had been active in the founding of Modern Palestine.

Eder’s earlier interest in motherhood and child development may have drawn Agnes Avery to seek him out. He had practiced medicine in British slums in 1905, and established the first school clinic (the Bow Clinic) in London for poor children in 1907. He continued to provide it with medical services, and then at the Margaret MacMillan School Clinic. In 1910 he established and edited the journal , which brought the health of England’s poor children to the nation’s attention. During the war, Eder spent over a year working part-time as a medical inspector in London’s East End schools. In his pre-war years, Eder was an important contributor to the Fabian Society paper, ‘The New Age’. His work regularly appeared in the paper between 1907 and 1917. He largely addressed medical and psychological topics, including school hygiene and the link between socialism and medicine, as well as politics, literature, and religion. In 1908 The New Age Press published his treatise , in which Eder argued for a social safety net for new mothers just before and after they gave birth. He was also interested in Jung’s version of psychoanalysis, the basis for his involvement in the London Psychoanalytic Group and, in the long term, the British Psychoanalytical Society.

News (Adelaide, SA : 1923 – 1954), Friday 26 February 1932, page 10

Agnes Avery returned to Adelaide in January 1933 after her world tour, only to announce she was selling up and returning to Britain. It appears that her intention was to undergo psychoanalysis. We do not know with whom.

In December 1935 Mrs Avery returned to Australia. By February 1936, much to the mirth of Board, she took over the Chair of the Board of Directors at Stoneyfell Quarries, one of the oldest in the state of South Australia, her father’s former company

By then she was also ‘the only woman member in Australia of the British Institute of Psychoanalysts’, the reporter for the reporter for the Adelaide Advertiser wrote. She had ‘a Freudian theory to account for the modest place that her fellow country women have hitherto taken in industry’, the reporter continued. “The reason is fear,” Mrs Avery said.

Their ability Is all there, but it is locked up and out of use. Secret fear of making mistakes is accentuated by the prejudice that they sense in the attitude of others. They accept and are paralysed by the verdict of the majority that women would be ‘no good’ In executive positions”, she continued.”If they could rid themselves of fear they would make mistakes, but what of it? Everybody makes mistakes at first. There is no reason why they should not prove themselves as invaluable as women leaders of industry in countries overseas, where such achievements are taken for granted.”

It would be interesting to learn more about this remarkable woman. Where, prior to her departure for London Mrs Avery had used the Adelaide press to promote herself, after her return she faded into the background, presumably devoting herself to her work. She used the Letters columns rather than the lecture circuit to propound her views. On 14 August 1937 a fortnight after the the New Education Fellowship Conference began its six week tour of Australia capital cities, she wrote a letter to the supporting education reform in the face of criticism of the ideas propounded by the Fellowship. She may have been aware that the British psychoanalyst and educationalist Susan Isaacs was a delegate to the Conference.

On 11 May 1938 following a call for the development of a psychological clinic in Adelaide, Mrs Avery wrote again to the editor of the Advertiser.

In South Australia there is urgent need for a clinic whereby the mentally sick may be treated scientifically. No one is perfectly normal and balanced, least of all those who vehemently assert that they are; but the tragedy lies in the fact “that few of us can have any doubt of the general accuracy of the estimate that one person in thirteen in this country < England), and in Australia too is in need of psychological reaajustment. That being so, how can we get to the cause?

Thirty odd years ago. Dr. Freud, of Vienna, discovered the method of “transference,” now known to the world as the psycho-analytical method. In London today is a body of men and women called -The British Institute of Psycho-Analysts.” One thing is essential is that every member must himself or herself have bsen analysed. You must heal yourself before you can heal others. The power is tremendous, and therein lies also the danger. Dealing with sick minds requires skill and technique of no mean order. The power of analysis, allied with medicine, has no limits.

Have we no sons and daughters of pioneers who, in their turn, will go forth and pioneer this great scientific knowledge for the benefit of humanity? It takes three years for a full analysis, followed by two years’ practice under the guidance of your medical-analyst. It can be taken in the stride of a medical course, and the British Institute of Analysts is out to encourage and help medical students to include analysis in their course. Men of undoubted ability and repute, such as Dr. Emest Jones or Dr. Edward Glover, are ready to point the way. To a young nation this is a matter of national import.

She was supported by someone calling themselves, ‘Probono Publico’ perhaps Medical Practitioner in a letter dated 23 May 1938.

War was declared in 1939. By the time anyone was able to examine the issue again it was 1945. Mrs Avery passed away on 27 August 1944.


PARADISE FOR CHILDREN (1933, January 14). News (Adelaide, SA : 1923 – 1954), p. 6. Retrieved February 13, 2022, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article133066877

MEETING SHAW (1933, February 21). The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1931 – 1954), p. 14. Retrieved February 13, 2022, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article41469023

Women In Industry (1936, February 4). The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1931 – 1954), p. 8. Retrieved February 14, 2022, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article35406233

Versatile S.A. Family (1936, May 1). News (Adelaide, SA : 1923 – 1954), p. 8. Retrieved February 14, 2022, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article132207519

CURING S!CK MINDS (1938, May 11). The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1931 – 1954), p. 28. Retrieved February 14, 2022, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article30867716

POINTS FROM LETTERS (1938, May 23). The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1931 – 1954), p. 22. Retrieved February 14, 2022, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article30870780

‘Reading the patient’:’A Dangerous Daughter’


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Dina Davis, A Dangerous Daughter, Sydney, Cilento Publishing, 2021.

Anat Tzur Mahalel, Reading Freud’s Patients: memoir, Narrative and the Analysand. Routledge, The History of Psychoanalysis Series, 2020.

‘What would the story of an analysis look like if it were told through the eyes of the analysand?’

This is a question from the blurb of Anat Tzur Mahalel’s study, Reading Freud’s Patients, released in 2020. Mahalel draws from memoirs left by Freud’s patients as she seeks to understand ‘how the patient’s experience differs from the one told by the analyst. There are case studies enough in the psychoanalytic literature as clinicians grapple with phenomena emerging in their consulting rooms. It is The patient’s muteness is Mahalel’s subject. Her questions concern, among other matters, the movement from the position of patient to author. And to what extent the act of writing about the space created between the patient and analyst, in Mahalel’s case, between Freud and his patients, expresses any late understandings and interpretations, and a translation of messages received from him’? ( Mahalel, p.60). She has used six studies:

Fragments of an analysis with Freud, by Joseph Wortis

Diary of my analysis with Sigmund Freud, by Smiley Blanton

My Analysis with Freud, Reminiscences, by Abram Kardiner

An American Psychiatrist in Vienna 1935-1937, and his Sigmund Freud, by John Dorsey

The Wolf Man and Sigmund Freud by Sergei Pankejieff

Tribute to Freud by Hilda Dolittle

‘Nothing written is ever erased’, Freud wrote. Mahalel takes this up, writing in her concluding chapter, ‘Psychic life is constructed of manifold layers that move at different paces and in different directions’. We need not to seek psychic transformation in the outermost, apparent layer of the psyche but to tunnel deep into the innermost layers, where apparently lost traces are revealed. The reminiscences and traces that seem to have been forgotten and therefore lost remain in fact forever present and archived in our psychic apparatus. Nothing significant is lost, only the path leading to it‘. (p. 190).

Mahalel’s reflections on writing, memoir, the mind and the unconscious, helps frame consideration of the Australian writer, Dina Davis’s fiction – memoir, A Dutiful Daughter, published in June 2021. It is based on the author’s life, including during her teenage years her analysis with an Australian born psychoanalyst, Ivy Bennett, who practiced in Perth from 1952 until 1958.

There is also a connection between Davis’s book and this blog.

I had first discovered Ivy Bennett, born in Lake Grace in the Western Australian Wheatbelt, during my early searches of the National Library’ digitised website, TROVE. Several early posts in this blog described how Bennett had made her way through scholarships to a lectureship in psychology at the University of Western Australia during the War years. Awarded a British Council Scholarship in 1945 Bennett sailed for England on 1 January 1946 and was introduced to Anna Freud by a compatriot, Ruth Thomas. Bennett subsequently trained with Anna Freud’s first cohort of students working with children at Anna Freud’s Clinic. These included refugee children rescued from Theresiensdadt. After completing further training to Associate level with the British Psychoanalytical Society in 1951-2, Bennett returned to Australia intending to settle permanently and establish a psychoanalytic practice. However she returned to Britain in 1958 intending to gain her full qualification. She subsequently married and moved to the United States to practice for many years in Kansas.

Dina Davis was an early correspondent, introducing herself and her connection with Bennett. Perhaps this connection stirred her memories and the book is the result. Davis has named her protagonist, Ivy, a tribute to Bennett and the place she has in her memory. Her work with Ivy Bennett ‘saved my life’, Davis has written. Later, long after Bennett had left the country, the memory of her analysis sustained her through another difficult time.

‘Ivy ‘is a teenager, the elder daughter a Jewish couple living in New South Wales in the 1950s. They reached Australia in flight from the Nazis in the war years. The horror of the Nazi death camps has particular meaning for this family, and for Ivy. For to eat is to live. From the the onset of anorexia nervosa when Ivy increasingly comes under the control of ‘The Voice’ that demands she not eat; her family’s rejection of her illness, and devastatingly for Ivy, her exile to stay with Western Australian relatives far from her home in the eastern states, Davis’s writing is spare, tight, and controlled. And when, at last she reaches Dr de Berg ( Dr B), the relief is palpable. Ivy has found someone who has faith in her.

There are the sessions. Dr B explains the structures of the psychoanalytic process, showing Ivy how ‘The Voice’ is manifest of an internal superego. Ivy learns that it is a part of her, and thus able to be managed by her. This, along with the naming of her condition ‘Anorexia Nervosa’, frees her to resume her life as a young adolescent with her future ahead of her.

There is much more to this story of a young girl growing up and learning to know and trust her mind. She has to negotiate peer group pressures, friendships, early love, and all the confusion this entails. Following an incident at a beach where one of her group almost drowned. Ivy’s presence of mind and ability to do what needed to be done, shows Ivy her own strength. As is the writing of this book.

I will leave it to others to review “ A Dangerous Daughter” more fully. As Dina Davis acknowledges, its beginnings lie in the chance encounter with part of her history when she found this blog, and the deeper memories it stirred. And, reflecting on a time long past, she makes the proper claim for her voice and its narration. The result is deeply moving. ‘The subject finds expression within the limitations or prohibitions of the censor, and yet the psyche ‘is inevitably drawn to speak its own voice’, Mahalel writes. ‘The text is the result. The text expresses not the engraving of the outer layer… but the allusiveness of psychic life, of the movement between layers of consciousness, internal entities, and time’ (190).

“ A Dangerous Daughter ‘ is an important contribution to Australian psychoanalytic literature and memoir. Here is the link to purchase the book.

Dr H. Owen Chapman : Neurosis in General Practice (Medical Journal of Australia, Sept 12, 1953).


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‘ … you may be interested to hear something of your book, ‘The Doctor, The Patient and the Illness’… ( Chapman to Balint 19 July 1958).

One of the delights for researchers trawling through archives is the discovery of people who have done their bit for the cause! It may be little more than a brief a letter, or an article: the outcome of years of their own research. Sadly they have faded away, their memories lost in a plethora of documents constituting our archives. It all adds texture and depth to the understanding of past sensibilities. What people thought was important in the past may look very different from the present. Their thoughts and ideas framed within the social unconscious of the period, are also formative of our own. It is one of the reasons why archive retention and preservation is so important. It holds the present accountable. And we need to know how we got to here from there.

I first found the General Practitioner, Dr Herbert Owen Chapman, in the Balint Papers at the British Psychoanalytical Society. He had written a letter introducing himself to Michael Balint in 1958. Balint’s book, The Doctor, the Patient and the Illness had come to Chapman’s attention. He wanted to congratulate Balint and tell him about his own research into the incidence of neurotic illness in Medical Practice. It led me to Chapman’s article, a piece of research into presentations of people with neurotic conditions – emotional distress- in General Practice published in 1953. Based on three years research the article is, I think, one of the first pieces of research into this arena.

Chapman also opens a new doorway for research when, in his introduction, he speaks of his return from Missionary Hospital Work in Central China in 1945 after twenty-five years. It serves to contextualize the life and career of this remarkable man. Owen Chapman joined the Christian Medical Mission and, in 1940 was the Superintendent of the Hankou Mission Hospital. In China, he says, he had developed an interest in neurotic illness and its treatment. He was witness to the 1926 -27 revolution in China, and published a book about China’s history and the influence of the Russian Community Part in 1929. A smaller work examining Church history in China was published in 1968. His article, Neurosis in General Practice, the outcome of three years Locum Tenems work following his return to Australia in 1946, was published in the Medical Journal of Australia dated 12 September 1952.

Born in New South Wales in on 6 February 1884, Chapman qualified in Medicine and, from 1910 took locum tenems work around Western Australia Newspaper articles show he was deeply involved in the Wesleyan church. His brother, Burgoyne Chapman and father, Benjamin Chapman were also significant figures in the Methodist Church. Owen joined the Army as a Medical Officer during the Great War and was discharged after an admission to hospital for ‘Sinusitis’. He departed for China in 1920.

Chapman’s research into the treatment of neurosis in Australian General Practice extended over three years from 1947 to 1949. It included 23 different locum assignments in thirteen new practices. Ten other terms were re engagements. Some practices were large and wealthy, he wrote. Others varied in size and financial stability. He covered inner city practices, rural and coastal practices as well as mining and industrial towns. The duration of the appointment ranged from seven days to thirty one days. A total of 213 cases were considered.

Chapman observed the difficulty of finding time in a busy practice to put patients at their ease so as to engage their trust sufficiently to explore underlying issues. However most of the active cases ‘were not buried so deeply’, nor was the resistance strong, although cases of where the condition had a sexual origin were difficult to reach. ‘But the most startling difference [lay] in the duration of the cases’. Where classical psychoanalysis determined treatment to be over several years, this was impracticable for medical practices. Chapman found that many people had a positive response to treatment based on Carl Rogers six to fifteen weekly contacts. Longer cases, usually treated by psychoanalysis, were often more severe.

Chapman was critical of medical training which offered little on the theory and practice of psychotherapy. In part this was due to a generalized fear of psychiatry in the community. DF Buckle had also noted that as a result the burden of treatment had fallen upon psychologists, teachers, social workers and the patient’s families. Neurotic illness was, Chapman, continued, ‘the greatest therapeutic problem confronting us today, whose final solution must remain for future years and a new generation of medical practitioners and statesmen’. There could be a beginning, now. He urged the development of psychiatric training, and for non specialists, experience in psychiatry. Such practitioners needed to be ‘introverts’, sensitive to and keenly interested in the human aspect of their practice. He recommended reading such as Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams, Ross’s Çommon Neuroses‘ and Rogers’s “Counselling and Psychotherapy“, as well as for more advanced practitioners, Alexander and French’s “Psychoanalytic Therapy”.

This is a thoroughly researched piece Chapman sought to show the importance of this field of medical practice, concluding, hat it was but a beginning. He hoped there would be others who would take up the ideas and thoughts he was expressing. Balint’s book, The doctor, the patient and the illness clearly resonated for him.


H Owen Chapman to Michael Balint, 19 July 1958, Balint Papers, Archives of the British Psychoanalytical Society.

H. Owen Chapman, The Chinese Revolution, 1926–27: A Record of the Period Under the Communist Control as Seen from the Nationalist Capital, Hankow. London: Constable & Co., Ltd. 1928.

H Owen Chapman, Neuroses in General Practice. Medical Journal of Australia, 12 September 1953, pp. 407-415.

H Owen Chapman, The second Reformation; a historical study: With a foreword by C. P. FitzGerald and a postscript by Keith Buchanan, Sydney, Times Press, 1968.

AMONG THE NEW BOOKS (1929, January 26). The Methodist (Sydney, NSW : 1892 – 1954), p. 4. Retrieved June 20, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article155297565

Observations Upon Group Therapy, Dr Paul Dane’s comments and introduction of a new method – MJA, July 1949


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And so, on the quest to find how psychoanalysis threaded its way through Australian life and culture, I have been perusing the Medical Journal of Australia in the State Library of Victoria. One year, two volumes at a time, of monthly reports and newsletters. It is close reading material, but worth the time and effort.

Apart from medical reports and photographs that only medical practitioners can understand, there are articles about history, Australian settlement, and anything that any doctor found interesting and decided to write about. They are an eclectic bunch, these medical men. And of course, women. Paediatricians, oncologists, physicians, and all specialties. What made a good ‘medical man’; how medical men were members of a club, participants in a vocation, specialists, separate and apart from the rest of the world, at once akin to God, but like ordinary mortals, trying to work out how to best serve their profession.

I have began to have my favourites. EP Dark’s articles on socialised medicine during the 1940s caused more than a modicum of consternation, often from, no less, Dr Paul Dane from Melbourne. Dane was a staunch believer in the right of medical men to set their fees, and work, without interference, or regulation, from government.

Dane has found his place in the Australian psychoanalytic hall of fame for his earnest work establishing the Melbourne Institute of Psychoanalysis. But his contributions to the understanding of war trauma is not yet recognized as much as it should be. His lovely, compassionate article on War Neuroses published in the International Journal of Psychoanalysis in 1927 is surely an account that draws on his own experience of illness, and relief at being evacuated from the field of war. His image of the rocking motion of the train carrying the wounded soldier to safety after the desecration of battle – the babe’s relief when mother cradles him in her arms, rocking and crooning, summons the memories of most, after some deeply traumatic and humiliating experience. Dane’s years treating war shock patients at the Fifth Australian General Hospital in St Kilda Road in Melbourne, had their dividends in his work to establish psychoanalysis as a clinical discipline.

Dane’s contribution to beginnings of group analysis in Australia is also noteworthy. Such work was probably not long enough for he died in 1950, a little over a year after he published an article entitled ‘Observations of Group Therapy’ in the Medical Journal of Australia ( July 25 1949). Written after a tour of inspection in Washington, Dane recorded his experiences of four groups of psychotic and borderline patients at St Elizabeth’s Hospital over seven months. The work had developed in response to need – as large number of war traumatized patients sought help. Dr JH Pratt of Boston and Dr Moreno of New York were named as pioneers.

Group therapy had emerged in the interwar years, Dane wrote… at least that what we had been told. But sick people had long been treated in groups, he went on to say – in the temples of Diana in Ancient Greece. And so too were members of the Christian faith. Even so the discipline was new; practice was still being established and, he noted, the ideas about groups were extending to family treatments.

Dane went onto discuss small and large groups, the interplay of interpersonal dynamics and instinctual forces, the frequency of treatment sessions, and the management of the group conductor – one or two.

‘The therapist is of course the most important member of the group’, Dane wrote. It is not essential that this person be a psychiatrist, he continued, but should have a sound training in psychoanalysis – ‘he should be analytically orientated and, better still, have undergone a personal analysis. I do not think it is possible for anyone, however skilfull a psychiatrist he may be, who has not become analytically minded to understand the complex interplay of forces that occur in an individual analysis as well as in group analysis. Repression, transference, identification, are among the chief mental mechanisms that must be understood, that must be observed and interpreted, only a person analytically trained is fully competent for these tasks’. Dane was a long time supporter of the medical professional’s claim upon psychoanalysis, at least in mid-twentieth century Australia.

Dane continued, exploring the ideas about shared experience, and the differences, advantages and disadvantages of group therapy in relation to individual therapy. And whether there was danger in this method. Group therapy is not intended to replace individual therapy, he continues. ‘ Ít is a supplement or an aid to such therapy; and both can be conducted simultaneously. ‘We do not yet know its limitations or possibilities, but it is a form of therapy that has come to stay’, he concluded. ‘It should form part of the treatment in all institutions and clinics that deal with psychosis and neurosis’.

There is much more to this article – a contribution to the beginnings of Group Analytic Therapy in Australia. After Dane’s passing Dr Frank Graham took up the mantle, diverting from Dane’s interest in returned soldiers to develop and teach group analytic therapy on broader, analytic principles, in Melbourne. The Australian Association of Group Psychotherapy, an outcome of this work, is continuing.


Paul G Dane, Observations upon Group Therapy, The Medical Journal of Australia, 23 July 1949.

Australian showing of a German film about the psychoanalytic process: ‘Secrets of a soul’ – (1926- 1929)


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This is a marvellous film. Made in Germany in 1926 it is about the psychoanalytic process, scripted by Hans Neumann and Colin Ross. The psychoanalysts Hans Sachs and Karl Abraham, both members of Freud’s inner circle, provided technical advice. Newspaper records digitized by the Australian National Library show it was played to some acclaim in 1928-29 – in Sydney and Melbourne, and in Launceston, Tasmania, In Queensland it visited Brisbane and the regional ‘planter’ sugarcane towns, Mackay and in Cairns and Townsville.

About a man, apparently happily married, who suddenly develops a phobia about knives, the film undertakes to explore the man’s unconscious, a result of his consultations with a psychoanalyst. Of course it is clear that this film was shown in many other countries, as well as in Australia. But this discovery of its showing, and possibly considerable local interest, amid reams of newspaper reports about the nature of Freud’s theory and its significance in 1920s Queensland, reveals a community of people interested in such complex ideas… distance may not have been such a tyrant after all.

There is much more to this film to explore… not least being the interpretations of psychoanalytic ideas brought by Sachs and Abraham.

The ‘dominant minority’: doctors, poets, and psychoanalysis: 1940s Australia


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A little note appears in the Australian Medical Journal – as part of the proceedings of the British Medical Association. The date is January 27 1945 and the page number is 93.. A correspondent want to know ‘what qualifications would be necessary before recognition would be granted to enable him to work in collaboration with a medical practitioner as a psychoanalyst’.

The reply was brief and to the point. ‘The Council stated that the holding of a medical degree would be essential’.

This little note marks medicine’s claim upon psychoanalysis in Australia in the mid twentieth century. It goes some way to answering the question about why its uptake was so slow. Of course, Freud wrote on the matter of the ’lay’ analyst. Ernest Jones, President of the British Psychoanalytical Society for many years preferred the medical influence even as the Society was constituted by a number of lay professionals – Anna Freud and Melanie Klein among them.

But I digress. The question for Australia is as much about the slow uptake of psychoanalysis as it is about who had the right to practice,

There is a view that the languid bushman, eschewing intellectualism, was hardly likely to consider psychoanalysis as something to pursue. And that in the quiet domesticity of urban Australia, so far from Europe, and real culture, psychoanalytic ideas were hardly likely to take hold.

Such a suggestion clearly affirms Russell Ward’s argument that the Bush Legend was just that.. a myth emerging from Settler Australia culture as it members grappled with a new and different environment so far from Home in Britain. Yearning and grief takes many forms, particularly if it is complicated by the ‘whispering’ thought that settlement had cost the original inhabitants their land.

This view of one’s fellow people- past ones -is rather thin, I think. That young white kids, living in the bush, and back blocks in the early to middle decades of the twentieth century, were making their way through schools and universities through scholarships certainly counters such ideas of anti – intellectualism. Their parents stepped aside for their kids education, shouldering the burden of the family farm while their kids studied or went off to boarding school. The Australasian Society for Philosophy and Psychology founded in 1923 held regular monthly meetings around Australia. It published a journal discussing philosophy, psychology and psychoanalysis for over two decades before the journal editors decided to focus on philosophy. By the end of the 1950s, psychoanalytic training was well enough established and taught in universities as well as the Australian Society of Psychoanalysts. The medical fraternity had relaxed enough to accept non medical professionals seeking professional training. Still, there was the sense psychoanalytic training was the province of an exclusive club – an uneasy inheritance, perhaps?

You don’t have to practice psychoanalysis to know about it, or be interested in its workings. . When the psychoanalyst and educationalist Susan Isaacs visited Australia in 1937, lecture halls across the country were filled to capacity when she spoke. She reached country women on the radio – possible a women broadcaster in Australia and not Britiin. Her ideas promulgated in the press, and taught at the University of Western Australia, prompted several young and talented women to seek opportunities for study in Britain and the United States. It was slow, as time is needed for youngsters to work their way through undergraduate years. But the British Council, a significant scholarship provider, enabled two young women to train as psychoanalysts in London. One of them, Ivy Bennett, returned in 1952 and establised the first lay psychoanalytic practice in Perth, Western Australia in 1953. She stayed for five years, returning to England, she said, for further qualification so as to stand up to medical professionals when she returned. Cecily de Monchaux, who left in 1947 decided to stay on, following her research interests and working to establish a psychoanalytic studies department at University College London. Ruth Thomas who left Australia in 1933 after eight years as a psychology lecturer at the University of Western Australia. This is the problem of the expatriate, the scholar, Ann Rees shows. There was not much for them to return to. Men, maybe, had a better time of it.

Psychoanalysis also had its place in literary circles even as it was explored, resisted, misunderstood, or not – and sometimes mocked!!! The Australian poet, Alec Hope’s 1942 poem, The Return from the Freudian Islands, ( Published in his ‘Selected Poems (1973), satirizes the ‘worship’that had come to surround Freudian ideas, likening these to imperial notions of civilizability. Hope clearly stands for poets and poetry if the venture of undestanding the human mind is to be accomplished. It’s biting satire, eventually imagining ‘ Saint Sigmund’ giving a lecture on his field. There is the discovery of Freud and the unconscious

For a time they thoroughly enjoyed/the brisk intolerance of the purified, In sects and schisms before The Holy Freud/Self-torn – while lesser saints were deified./

Till Faith, which never can let well alone, from heresy and counter heresy/Prompted the saint to bare beneath the bone/ The Ultimate Visceral Reality.

Long time he mused before the Sacred Id, Lomg prayed, before he finally began/ And, purged, impersonal, uninhibited, Produced at last The Basic Freudian Man.

And so Hope continues in this vein, in this poem of twenty, four-lined stanzas, reducing a body of ideas, arguing the case for poetry as the way to address emotional tensions in society and individual.

‘Sigmund, so that none of them should miss/ The beauty of the new world he had made,/ Explained the Triumph of Analysis:/Pimples and cramps now shed with pelt and thews,/ No dreams to fright, no visions to trouble them, For, where the death wish and self knowledge fuse, They had at last the human L.C.M…..

Here the saint paused, looking modestly at the ground/ And waited for their plaudits to begin./ And waited… There was nothing!. A faint dry sound/ As first a poet buttoned on his skin.

Clearly there is room for research about the way settler Australians construed themselves and about who talked with whom. Does Hope making a claim for his own discipline for understanding what makes us human, also point out how such matters can become siloed into groups, each defining their boundaries, and claim to knowledge?

As I write this I am reminded of Wilfrid Bion’s invocation of Toynbee’s concept of the ‘dominant minority’ in his 1948 paper, Psychiatry in a Time of Crisis. You will find it in the British Journal of Psychological Medicine. Bion describes Toynbee’s argument, that the ‘ailing civilization pays the penalty for its failing vitality by being disintegrated into a dominant minority, which rules with increasing oppressiveness but no longer leads, and a proletariat ( internal and external) which responds to this challenge by becoming conscious that it has a soul of its own and making up its mind to save its soul alive’.

More research is needed, particularly about the way ‘Medical men’, were positioned in mind twentieth century Settler Australian culture, thus able to assert their claim upon psychoanalytic knowledge. Perhaps it was about authority – and part of a broader debate about who, in fact, ruled in Australia. For alongside that little note in the Australian Medical Journal were other more immediate questions and discussions as the Australian Medical Profession was forced to share their space -with refugee doctors. There was also the curly question of socialized medicine which would, potentially, remove their right to practice as they wished.

Bion with his thoughts about the dominant minority, and Hope’s about the function of the poet in society, are addressing groups described by Bion as ‘psychiatrically disinherited’. It is possible for Society to be organised that way, Bion says. That people are prohibited access to their full emotional development, structured, socially, in such a way to prevent this. In what he called the Áge of Plastic, Hope critiqued the overvaluation of technological change splitting from emotion, as he reached to articulate the encessary taslk of restoring individuals or groups to a critical part of their inheritance. In 1966 Maurice Dunlevy, a critic for the Canberra Times described Hope’s mission:

From the beginning he has tried to reject its synthetic allurements; he has revealed the absurdity of its values and exoosed the quackery of its tribal psychologists, who have shown man’s soul as a bottled abortion.

He is ready to accept nothing at face value: My evening bus seeks out her north-west- passage/ And I my hero in the comic strip/. In every age the hero has taken ship/ Away from the Newer Deal, the Nobler message…

It’s seems Bion and Hope had a lot in common in their battle with the ‘establishment’.


Iron poet of the plastic age (1966, March 19). The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 – 1995), p. 11. Retrieved January 9, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article105892384

W R Bion, Psychiatry in a time of crisis, British Journal of Medical Psychology, 21(2), 81-89.

AD Hope (1943), The return from the Freudian Islands, in AD Hope (ed,), (1973) Selected Poems, Sydney, Angus and Robertson: 11-13.

The knitting needle and a new life – Dr Suzanna Taryan, Melbourne, Australia


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When I was a little girl in Budapest, one of my father’s prize possessions ( along with ‘Mari neni’, the skull sitting on our bookshelf) was a globe of the earth with a light in it. I loved that globe. ‘See just here, if you put a knitting needle in it from Hungary, it will come out in New Zealand,’said Dad. He claimed that New Zealand was a land of eternal spring, geysers and naked Maoris, and then he remarked, ‘That is where I would like to go‘ – as far away from the hated Communism of the 1950s, as possible. ( Suzanna Taryan, 2020, p. 11).

There are all sorts of ways to make history. This book by Suzanna Taryan is about the living and the writing of it – from her Hungarian childhood, her escape to New Zealand with her parents, and eventually her role in the early establishment of the professional branch in psychiatry, psychoanalytic psychotherapy, and Infant Mental Health at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne Australia. Her story is part of the larger refugee story – as Settler Australia and New Zealand evolved from Britishness to becoming culturally diverse nations – and all that this might mean.

I had interviewed Suzanna for my Clara Geroe project late in 2019, before the pandemic. Among other matters I am seeking to understand the Hungarian emigre experience – and its influence on the development of the psychoanalytic culture in Australia. Suzanna, just ten years old when the Hungarian Uprising occurred in October 1956, was happy to oblige. And in a sense this book, written for her family, signals the completion of her own personal project, a task triggered by my interest. She has a story to tell.

At the time of the Hungarian Uprising in 1956 Suzanna and her parents were living in an apartment next door to the AVO – the secret police building in Budapest. They did not want for an electricity supply… other Budapest households were apparently not so endowed. But when the people marched on the AVO building and dragged the police out onto the streets, and killed them, Suzanna and her family saw too much. Enough to decide to escape. Suzanna’s parents had experienced enough during the war. Her mother’s family perished in Budapest at the hands of the Hungarian fascists when the Russians swept in to liberate Budapest in 1944. Her father had spent time in a forced labour battalion. Of the Russians, Suzanna recounted her father’s words: “The Liberators forgot to leave after the war”. He opposed anything to do with Communism. Even though as he explained to his daughter, knowledge of that opposition had to remain within the walls of the family. Outwardly there would be conformity.

I have come to admire this man, Suzanna’s father. I like his wisdom and chutzpah! He was a survivor. He saved Suzanna’s mother’s life. I hope someone will make a movie about him.

And so the family escaped from Hungary, late in December 1956. They took buses and trains. They walked, with a few possessions and clothes stashed in backpacks, from Budapest all the way to the border between Hungary and Austria. Ten years old Suzanna carried the precious brew intended for bribes along the way. They tramped through deep snow, lost their money to unscrupulous guides, walked around in circles in darkness and eventually were found by Austrian people who provided shelter, food, and rest before the bus trip to Vienna.

Then there was the journey from Vienna to New Zealand where the family settled, and, eventually for Suzanna, Australia -all told through vignettes that mirror the people and culture of the time – their Britishness, smug superiority and their shock at Suzanna’s difference. There is Suzanna going to school without knowledge of English, being put into a class lower than her ability, shooting to the top and eventually making her way to medical school in New Zealand before undertaking psychiatry training in Melbourne. Suzanna tells her story through short descriptions of her encounters with senior professionals, the seminal moments in her life. Her battle to become a child psychiatry trainee – she had to qualify as a psychiatrist first – is told with wry humor as she overcomes one hurdle after another. Dr R, Director of Psychiatry at the Royal Children’s Hospital had put the ‘no vacancy‘ sign up when Suzanna applied for a registrarship there. She ended up at Prince Henry’s Hospital then in St Kilda Road, Melbourne. Her cultural difference was one matter to contend with. There was also the assumption of male superiority… has it gone away?

There are personal stories along the way, marriage, family, illness – all the things that constitute a life. Suzanna finally makes it to a consultant psychiatry job at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne. She is appointed to the Craniofacial unit alongside Dr L, the Chief Psychologist. Together they became pioneers. They built a body of experience and literature, about early parenthood of children born with facial deformities. It is creative, ground breaking work as the two devise research projects, observational studies of mother infant interactions, write it up and publish articles. Their collaboration is worthy of further study – it was part of the early development of the Infant Mental Health unit at the Children’s. Suzanna also lectured in this field at international conferences – part of the team brokering Australia’s reputation world wide.

I spent a brief period at the Children’s early in my professional career and was aware of this work, albeit from a distance. Dr L was also very influenced by the psychoanalyst Dr Clara Geroe during the 1950s.

This little book by Suzanna is a about courage, luck, and fighting to make opportunities happen despite the odds. It is an excellent contribution to the understanding of the Antipodean refugee story, and the Australian development of international mental health practice for infants. If you wish to obtain a copy of Suzanna’s book please send an email to freudinoceania@gmail.com

Imperial fossils, a piece of enlightenment, and a small triumph: a cathedral adventure – OR – Do statues float?


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During our British sojourn in September 2019 we trecked from Durham to Carlisle to visit the cathedral there. Carlisle Cathedral, is the seat of the Anglican Bishop of Cumbria. Wikipedia tells me it was founded as an Augustin priory and became a cathedral in 1133. It is also the second smallest cathedral in the British Isles and renowned for its ancient stone choir and for its vaulted blue ceiling.

BBC Choral Evensong: Carlisle Cathedral 1985 (Andrew Seivewright ...

Our guides there have told us two stories about this deep blue ceiling. The first is that it is a restoration of the Cathedral’s medieval ceiling. The second is that it is a Victorian decoration. We await the true story.

Cathedrals are important. A journey along their walls, floors and rooms tell us about the people who lived in the city in times past. It is about displays of family wealth and power, as well as grief, loss, and the community. Middle class Britain was built, for some, on eighteenth century slavery, or the monies realised with emancipation. The Church, particularly, the Anglican Church, was its expression. The Anglican Church was also a centre of Missionary activity at home and abroad.

It is probably not the done thing to climb up onto the lectern from where the minister preaches. But there was no apparent barrier. It seemed OK. The result was my letter to the Bishop and a reply from the Dean of the Cathedral.

My letter:

30 May 2020

Dear Lord Bishop

I visited Carlisle Cathedral during September 2019… my second visit from Australia, and a return visit  after discovering the Cathedral in 2018….I am interested in the way the Church represents itself to the people and is also an expression of contemporary culture.

During my visit to the cathedral last year I chanced to clamber up to the lectern from which the minister preaches. Upon this was a document, an account of the Britishers marvelous defeat of a rebellious African tribe during the nineteenth century. It was good British imperial stuff… extolling the virtues of the British Empire and all that.

Historiography has moved on. Historians today are immersed in the darker side of Empire. They are thinking about and exploring the appropriation of land and culture of indigenous people. They want to understand what the African, and indeed, indigenous people, were fighting for. And they are finding that the experience of invasion and objections to it to be valid concerns. 

The document on your lectern in 2019 is of historical value for its triumphalist story of empire. We need to know that this is what people of the Empire actually thought to be the truth. And we need to examine why this was so. Imperialism and colonialism are complex issues. Indeed for as many triumphalist stories of Britain’s place in the world as there are, including the one on your lectern, there are many documents querying these stories if not the the basis upon which Empire was built.

I suggest that the document on your lectern needs to remain but to be placed alongside a more  critical, if not revisionist, account of the very destructive activities of missionaries and others in places like Africa and India. My fear is that by not doing so the members of the Cathedral will show themselves to be locked in the past, and maintaining the nineteenth century/ early twentieth century phantasy that all is right with the world as long it is British – and white.

I leave this for your consideration and look forward to your reply”.

The Dean of Carlisle Cathedral replied on 18th June 2020.

Here is the text.

“Your email to the Bishop of Carlisle has been forwarded to me as the person responsible for Carlisle Cathedral. I am very grateful to you for writing as you have done. I am glad you climbed into the lectern and took time to read the notice that customarily rests there.

I have made enquiries. I understand that the text on display is the one received and put in place here when the lectern was lent to the Cathedral by Ivegill parish in 2003. It has not been reviewed since –not least, perhaps, because when the clergy mount the steps of the lectern to read a lesson at one of our services, a full size bible is in place that covers the paper with the notice on it.Your letter reaches me at a very timely moment. Across this nation, and much more widely, an important debate is running which shows us how important it is, as you suggest, to continue to interrogate the way the past is understood and interpreted.

Your helpful comments ensure that we will think again about this and any notice we have on display and how it might be interpreted. The Cathedral Chapter does not want to be thought to be locked in the past or to maintain a view of imperialism and colonialism which many used to hold as you set out in your email. I shall have time do this work before the Cathedral opens to the public again after the restrictions we have been observing during the Corona virus pandemic”.

Good for them!!