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The SourceFromWhichAll GoodThingsFlow

:
An interviewwith the editorialboard of
the "Journalof Psychohistory".

By PatrickHalston

History480
Dr. Baskerville
Feb.21 | 20OO
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Patrick: Soyou area simulacrumof the editorialboardof the "Journalof Psychohistory"?
Journal: Yes.

Patrick: Why shouldI believeanythingyou haveto tell me?- you arenot, afterall, the real
editorialboardof thejournal,merelymy bestrepresentation
of it.
Journal: Everreadhistory?
Patrick: Of course.Oh, I get it - writersof history,unlessits recenthistory,alsopresentto the
of a time they themselveswerenever
readera simulacrum:their bestrepresentation
on sourcesI hadearlieron in this history
witnessto. This remindsme of a discussion
{
four eighty course,but that discussiondid not trivi alize the fact that historianswere
l' not witnessto history,but, instead,leanttowardsmakingit explicit in the structureof
the historians'work by breakingup the narrativewith chartsandtablesandso on.
Journal: Done.

Patrick: This is a parabola?
theoryof historyis the only theorywhich posits
Journal: No. It's a smile. The psychogenic
love asthe centralmotivein history.. .
Patrick: Now wait a minute!That'snot thejournal- that'sLloyd deMause.He's the main
editor,true,but the editorialboardhasovertwentyfive members.I thoughtI could
counton thisjournal to be extracarefulnot to be duplicitous.You arethejournal,after
all, that accusesall otherwritten history,which I guessincludeseverythingwritten in
otherjournals,of mainly beingin the businessof resolvingpersonaltraumas,regardless
of what historicalproblemsthey claim they aretrying to solve.
Journal: Yes,but our ownjournal is not immune. We havethesepsychobiographers.
..
Patrick: But a few of thesemustbe on your editorialboard. How canyou, asan aggregate,
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begin to bad mouth them?
Journal: Not any more. You seevery few aristocratic psychobiographiesafter nineteen ninety.
Patrick: About the time universities dropped the journal?
Journal: We await our Kuhnian revolution. . .
Patrick: About the psychobiographers.. .

Journal: Yes, they are all suspect. We assumethat the problem psychobiographersare mainly
oogreat"men. They are
interestedin solving is how to absorbthe phallic potency of
like shamans,but rather than communing with Gods while traversing the world of
spirit, they commune with "great" men - demi-gods - in the mystical realm they like
to call the past.

Patrick: This is supposedto be a paper about sources- the kinds your journal typically uses
to get at the problemsyou want to solve. Thesearistocraticpsychobiographies.. .

before nineteen ninety, lets say in nineteeneighty five, what kifs of sourceswould be
U
w
referredto constructa psychobiography?
Journal: personaljournalsarethe mostcommonlyusedprimary
Letters,autobiographies,
just thosewrittenby the subjectof the study,but also
sources.Not necessarily
thosewritten abouthim (her)by others.
Patrick: In Andrew Brink's essayon BertrandRussellhe mentionsthat Russellin his own
autobiographycandidlyreportswhat D.H. Lawrencehadto sayabouthim.
Journal: Carefulwith the "candidly" part - how exactlydoesBrink know that Russellwas
beingcandid. It is an inappropriateinsertionwhich lessonsthe likelihoodthat the
readerwill wonderhimself(herself)whetherRussellis providingus with an accurate
simulacrumof whatLawrenceactuallysaidto him. You haveto be carefulwith
Thesearesourcescreatedwith alaryereadingpublic in mind, and
autobiographies.
might, althoughthey may not, vary from what is put down in privatedocuments.
Patrick: This couldbe doublecheckedby the author.
Journal: Certainly. But despitethe fact that Brink describeslettersandRussell'sjournal with
differentmetaphors- lettersas"confessions", journal asa " balancesheet"- he
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otherwise leaveswhatever differencesmight exist for the readerto discern.

Patrick: There is another psychobiography in eighty five, an article by Peter Hammond
Schwartz on Martin Luther. He usesLuther's writings to help us understandthat
Luther's conversionexperiencehad as much or more to do with resolving differences

with his mother as with his father as Erickson suggested. What problem would the
current editorial board have with this psychobiography?
Journal: Okay. We get a twenty page article telling us essentiallythat only a
psychobiographercan get at Luther's real motivations. A mere historian would have

assumed"rational" motives. So far we agree. But when Schwartz mentions why
Luther had such influence he saysit was becausethe church was broadly detested,due
to rampant comrption, leaving a opening for someonelike Luther. So in effect, what
we are being told is that while great men like Luther needpagesand pagesof
psychoanalysisfor us to understandthem, the "common folk" are a different story,

and seemto do things for the reasonshistorians have said they do things. Another
essayin eighty five doesthe samething. Faris Kirland's essayon the French military

collapsetells us that thefunch officer classwasdemoralizedbecauseof budget
reductionsin military spending,ffid public apathytowardsthe military. Well of
course!you might say. But if true thenexactlyhow usefulis psychologyin
history?It couldperhapslegitimatelybe ignored.
understanding
Patrick: The "commonfolk" aremorecomplex?Their motivescannotbe assumed?
Journal: Right. Psychobiographers that everyoneis greatly
might wantto remindthemselves
affectedby their child rearing. It may not be appropriateto createa divide between
the "great" andthe "common." Many of us questionwhether"leaders"really leadat
of groupwishes.
all, or aremerelydelegates
Patrick: In which caseyou might want to compareLutherwith his "flock." I supposeyou
could do this by comparingtheir writings,but how manyof the millions who
themselveswith Lutherwroteaboutthe maternalChristasredeemer?
associated
Journal: Plentywrote aboutchildren. So doesLuther. He saysthey "were obnoxiouswith
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their crapping, eating and screaming",beings who "don't know anything, they aren't
even capableof doing anything, they don't perform anything . . . [and are] inferior
to adults." Interestingly, Brink tell us that Luther loved children.
Patrick: Why is this interesting?
Journal: In general, we assumethat it is very difficult for most scholarsto admit that the bulk
of parents in the past were abusiveto their children.
Patrick: You ^"u{*"convinced that you haveproventhis allegedabuseoccurred.

Journal: No, we mean what we said. For example, when the historian Roger Thompson tries
to argue that parenting in Middlesex County, Massachusefisduring the later part of
the seventeenthcentury was preffy good from his researchinto three court cases- the

only casesduring a frfu year period - we assumethat what Thompson is really trying
to do is prove writers like Lloyd deMause,Edward phorter and Lawrence Stone
wrong. Thereby he needn't have to considerthe uncomfortablepossibility that his
own childhood may not have been as rosy as he might like to imagine it was. The
three most powerful words in the English language:don't dish mom.

Patrick: That's four words, or at least three and a half. Anyway your whole argument seems
quite speculative;it wouldn't hold up in court.

Journal: Yes, but we are all agreedthat the primary purpose of all our psychic defense
mechanismsis to prevent us from re-experiencingour early traumas.Denial is a
one such defensemechanism. Speakingof courts. . .

Patrick: Thompson should have looked at something other than court records to prove his
case?

Journal: Yes. Typically court recordstell us liftle about the abuseof children. It isn't only
that you're never sure whether the court casesrepresentonly extreme examples of

behavior, as Thompsonconcedesis a possibility, but it might be that
this is usually the case. Thompson could have taken a better look at autobiographies
than he does. He briefly refers to a study by Linda Pollack which we find tenibly
insubstantial. She counts every diary which does not mention abusive behavior as
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proof of a happy home. And in generalhe should have been more inventive. Many
psychohistorianshave found parish recordsto be rich sourcesof information. You can
get some idea of the frequency of infanticide by looking to parish birth records

and comparing male and female birth ratios . Karen Taylor, also in eighty five, finds
evidenceof the sexualabuseof children by looking at casesof VD in medicaljournals.
Patrick: She trusted what these doctors had to say?

Journal: Oh no! If you listened to the doctors sexual abusenever happened. They were

as conservative as the courts who convicted very few people for the abuseof children
at the time. But modern science,with its enhancedunderstandingof viruses, and
modern scientists,who are more willing to acceptnot only that parents do use
children for sexual purposes,but also that it does harm the child, look at the data
a century ago as clear evidencethat sexualcontact did occur between children and
parents.

Patrick: And that it was rampant?
Journal: Clearly one has to be careful when making conclusionsabout the extent of child abuse.
And although Taylor suspectsthat these reported casesare the tip of the iceberg

considering shebelievesthat a large (the majority) of children with VD would never
have seena doctor, one would needto be cautious about assumingthe relative

frequency of sexual datafrom this data alone.

Patrick: But what if there was other evidencesuggestingthat this was the case. Like, for

example, Freud, during the time of Taylor's period of study, saying that "sexual

assaultson small children happentoo often for them to have any aetiological
importance.. .."

Journal: We think you'd make a fine psychohistorianPatrick.
Patrick: Thank you.

Journal: Collaborating evidenceis key, but you do have to make sure that it really is

collaborative. Freud may not have had Britain and the U.S. in mind when he made that
statement,although it is quite possible that he in fact did, or that it is still relevant in
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eithercase.But still collaboratingevidence,aswith all journals,surely,is what we aim
for. For exampledeMauseonceusedthe writingsof Plutarchasa sourceto suggest
the gods" atCarthage.
that therewaswidespreadsacrificeof childrento'oappease
Somehistorianswroteto him askinghim why he trustedPlutarchasa source,
thatPlutarchcouldwell havebeenlying. But thereis archaeological
suggesting
evidence.Overtwentythousandurnscontainingbonesof childrenhavebeenfound at
madeby Plutarch
Carthage.Examinationsof thesebonessupportotherobservations
concerningthe specificmethodsusedto makethe sacrifices.
Patrick: And if you discoveryou cantrust Plutarchaboutonething, perhapsaboutothersas
well?
Journal: This couldwell be a goodway to figure out whom to trust whenlooking at people's
writingsconcerningchildhood.
Patrick: Are thereany othersourceslike the medicaljournalsthat indirectlytell you something
aboutchildhoodin the past?
Journal: Yes. We assumethat any attemptto differentiatepublic andprivate,or societal
andindividual,is relatedto a denialof individualculpabilityin group
actions. Otherthanthis usefuldenialmechanismwhich itself is a cenfralreasonwe
like to organizeinto groups,the groupis in manywaysbestunderstoodasthe
we don't necessarilyhaveto rely only on source
individualwrit large.Consequently
asdirectlycastinglight on family life. We can,
materialwhich mightbe understood
anddo, look at sourceswhich indirectlysuggestcertainkinds of childhoodpractices.
Of coursein makingthis distinction,we shouldbe wary of implying that any kind of
evidencecanactuallywhisk the readerawayinto the bedroomsof the past. Although
consideringwe find child rearingto be so importantandleadsto predictablekinds of
amongstotherthings,includingiconographicstylesandforms,we
social organizations
the ideathat simply becausewe weren't there,that everything
do not overemphasize
we sayaboutthe pastis necessarilyspeculative.For instance,againin eighty five,
thereis an articleby AyersBalgley,concerningimagesof Jesusat school,which could
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suggesta changein child rearing practicesaround the sixteenth century. He notes that
the images of Mary found in parishesand manuscriptsare less "godly" - her halo is
absent,for example - than in previous centuries. Given further evidence,like the same
tendency not to reify Mary as can be found, according to Schwartz, in Luther's

autobiography, we might be persuadedthat at least somepeople alive at the time are
displaying less splitting/schizoidbehaviorthan previously - which thanks to copious,
and to us, convincing psychotherapeutic,neurobiological evidence,we believe is
related to specific kinds of child rearing.
Patrick: Melanie Klein, and her studiesof imagesdrawn by "schizoid" children and those of
"depressive"ones?

Journal: Amongst many other collaborating studiesand evidence- yes.
Patrick: Since this is a paper about sources,perhapswe could begin to conclude this interview
by noting that if askedabout what primary sourcesthe journal uses,the journal
might refer to Freud, Winnicott, deMause,etc., as often as they would to letters,
court recordsetc..

Journal: We'd like to end by mentioning that we are willing to make predictions. The journal is
not simply about the past, in fact, deMausemeant for the term "psychohistory" to
read 'opsychosocial."Psychosocial,however,is a tautology in our circle, so the

"Journal of Psychohistory"we became.
Patrick: Historians don't make predictions.

Journal: Psychohistoriansdo, or at least someof us do, but, really, so do historians. Many

like to conclude from their studiesof the past that man at all times is basically the
same:generally flawed, although sometimesnoble. If true, this alone tells us a great

deal about the future. Also, they are willing to credit "great'omen of the past, like de

Tocqueville with accuratepredictions, and there is a sensethat the more writings from
o'gteat"people you have read, the better you are able to oosee"ahead- and not simply

follow the primitive instinctive movementsof the mob.

Patrick: None of this seemsto apply to "progressive"socialhistorians?
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Journal: That's right; they area befferbreed- membersof a betterpsychoclass.
Patrick: You psychohistoriansarenurnberonethough?
Journal: We're the only onesto listen to if you actuallywant to understandthe past.There
are,asmentioned,otherreasonsfor doing history though.
Patrick How aboutendingby making a predictionfor us?
Journal: Sure. PatrickBuchananwill be the nextpresidentof the U.S..
Patrick: Populism?
Journal: Populism,and/orthe mob. The key is the aggregatelevel of child rearing. But this is
to make,don't you?
a subjectfor a differenttime. You've got onelastpresentation
Maybewe canaddressthis subjectthen.
Patrick Thanksfor your time.
Journal: Our pleasure.