The grant from the Leverhulme Trust will bring together researchers from Northumbria University and the University of Sunderland to look at the subject of depression, before ‘depression’.
Project leader Professor Allan Ingram from Northumbria University says: “Depression, like other forms of mental illness, has been a much discussed issue in modern societies. Yet depression, as a psychiatric term, dates only from the middle years of the 19th Century, when it acquired its currency in both medical and literary usage.
“Before the term depression was introduced, a wide range of terms was used to describe, with varying emphasis, the mental and physical experience of lowness of spirits. Although these terms often overlapped and appeared synonymous, they had cultural and scientific resonance within different social fields at different times and this will be explored during our research.”
The research project brings together a team of experienced English researchers and Professor Ingram will be joined by Northumbria lecturer Dr Clark Lawlor and Professor Richard Terry and Professor Stuart Sim, both from the University of Sunderland.
The study will focus on historical and literary works of the eighteenth century in Britain, including letters, journals, pamphlets and biographical and autobiographical works, looked at in the context of social, historical and medical issues of the time.
Professor Richard Terry, from the University of Sunderland says: “The study will provide a fascinating insight into the development of what we know and understand today as depression and we look forward to sharing our findings, which will feature in a series of publications and will be disseminated at an international conference and art exhibition in 2008.”
The research is being funded by The Leverhulme Trust, founded in 1925 following a bequest by Lever Brothers entrepreneur and philanthropist William Hesketh Lever, Lord Leverhulme of the Western Isles.
The Leverhulme Trust Director Professor Sir Richard Brook says:
“Lord Leverhulme was a great entrepreneur but he was also a philanthropist, supporting a variety of educational, religious, civic, community and medical causes. When the Trust was established, one of the key provisions was to provide scholarships for research and education. The Trustees are delighted to have the opportunity to provide funding for this innovative project, which looks at the historical context of a very real issue for modern day society”.
Ruth Laing | alfa
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