A A A

Stress in Non-Human Animals

By Stacy Hackner, on 14 October 2015

DSC_0745This post is associated with our exhibit Stress: Approaches to the First World War, open October 12-November 20.

By Stacy Hackner

 

A pig’s skull may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of stress. You may not think of non-human animals at all. However, humans are not the only animals that experience stress and related emotions. Many of the behaviors associated with human psychological disorders can be seen in domestic animals. Divorced from the dialogue of consciousness and cognition, animals have been seen exhibiting symptoms of depression, mourning, and anxiety. Wild animals in captivity ranging from elephants to wolves have exhibited signs of post-traumatic stress disorder; this is also an argument for why orcas in captivity suddenly turn violent. According to noted animal behaviorist Temple Grandin, animals that live in impoverished environments or are prevented from performing natural behaviors develop “stereotypic behaviors” such as rocking, pacing, biting the bars of their enclosure or themselves, and increased aggression. Many of these bear similarities to individuals with a variety of psychological conditions, and (most interestingly) when given psychopharmaceuticals, the behaviors cease.

The First World War unleashed horrors on human soldiers, resulting in shell shock (now called PTSD). However, many animals were also used, including more than one million horses on the Allied side, mostly supplied by the colonies – but 900,000 did not return home. Mules and donkeys were also used for traction and transport, and dogs and pigeons were used as messengers. (Actually, the Belgians used dogs to pull small wagons.) Since the advent of canning in the 19th century, armies no longer had to herd their food along, but apparently the Gloucestershire Regiment brought along a dairy cow to provide fresh milk, although she may have served as a regimental mascot as well – some units kept dogs and cats too.

Horses in gas masks. Sadly, they often confused these with feed bags and proceeded to eat them. Credit Great War Photos.

Horses in gas masks. Sadly, they often confused these with feed bags and proceeded to eat them. Credit Great War Photos.

The RSPCA set up a fund for wounded war horses and operated field veterinary hospitals. They treated 2.5 million animals and returned 85% of those to duty. 484,143 British large animals were killed in combat, which is roughly half the number of British soldiers killed. Estimates place the total number of horses killed at around 8 million.

The horses in particular had a strong impact on the soldiers. Researcher Jane Flynn points out that a positive horse-rider relationship was imperative for both on the battlefield. She cites a description of the painting Goodbye Old Man:

“Imagine the terror of the horse that once calmly delivered   goods   in   quiet   suburban   streets   as, standing hitched to a gun­carriage amid the wreck and ruin at the back of the firing line, he hears above and all around him the crash of bursting shells. He starts, sets his ears back, and trembles; in his wondering eyes is the light of fear. He knows nothing of duty, patriotism, glory, heroism, honour — but he does know that he is in danger.”

"Goodbye, Old Man" used in a poster. Credit RSPCA.

“Goodbye, Old Man” used in a poster. Credit RSPCA.

Historical texts tend to consider horses and other animals used in war as equipment secondary to humans, and even the RSPCA only covers their physical health. Horses don’t only have relationships with their riders, but with the other horses nearby and with the environment. They can easily be frightened by loud noises, not to mention explosions, ground tremors from trench cave-ins, and other things that scared humans sharing their situation. Many horse owners (many pet owners, in fact) argue that their horses have and express human-like emotions. Even if we can’t verify this scientifically, we can observe that horses experience fear, rage, confusion, gain, loss, happiness and sadness. Grandin argues that horses have the capacity to experience and express these simple emotions as well as recall and react to past experiences, but are unable to rationalize these emotions: they simply feel. It’s impossible to say whether that makes it more frightening for a horse or a human to wade through a field of dead comrades. In Egypt, I took a horse ride around the pyramids. The trail led us through what turned out to be an area of the desert where stable owners execute their old horses, resulting in a swath of rotting corpses. I was shocked, and my horse displayed all the signs of fear: ears pinned back, wide eyes, tensed muscles. He recovered after we’d left the area, but I wondered what psychological impact having that experience day after day would cause. If they are able to remember frightening experiences, they might be able to experience post-traumatic stress and be as shell-shocked as the returning soldiers. British soldiers reported that well-bred horses experienced more “shell-shock” than less-pedigreed stock, bolting, stampeding, and going berserk on the battlefield – all typical behaviors of horses under duress, – but did not elaborate on the long-term consequences of this behavior. It would be interesting to explore accounts of horses that survived the war (and were returned to their original owners instead of being sold in Europe or slaughtered) to see whether they exhibited more stereotypical behaviors of stress and shell-shock just as human soldiers did.

 

Sources

Thanks to Anna Sarfaty for advice.

Animals in World War One. RSPCA.org.

Bekoff, Mark. Nov 29, 2011. Do wild animals suffer from PTSD and other psychological disorders? Psychology Today (online).

Flynn, Jane. 2012. Sense and sentimentality: a critical study of the influence of myth in portrayals of the soldier and horse during World War One. Critical Perspectives on Animals in Society: Conference Proceedings.

Grandin, Temple and Johnson, Catherine. 2005. Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior. New York: Scribner.

Shaw, Matthew. ND. Animals and war. British Library Online: World War One. 

Tucker, Spencer C. (ed.) 1996. The European Powers in the First World War: An Encyclopedia. New York: Garland.

Man and Beast: Confinement and the Asylum

By Gemma Angel, on 17 December 2012

  by Sarah Chaney

 

 

 

 

 

Recently, I was lucky enough to be able to borrow a replica strait-jacket, which visitors to the Grant Museum were only too eager to try on, offering an interesting point of departure for conversations on freedom and constraint within a mental health context. The backdrop of the Grant Museum itself offered a striking way of representing a comparison often made in histories of psychiatry: as Andrew Scull puts it, “the madman in confinement was treated no better than a beast; for that was precisely what, according to the prevailing paradigm of insanity, he was.”[1] Scull was talking about the 17th and 18th centuries in particular – for him, the introduction of moral treatment (an approach focused on providing a restful environment and work and occupational opportunities for asylum inmates) around 1800 encouraged a shift in understandings of the mentally afflicted. From being viewed as animals, requiring control and confinement, they were re-classified as children, who might be educated.

This idea of a clear shift is overly simplistic, failing to take into account, for example, changing ideas of education, child-rearing or cruelty to animals. Indeed, Patricia Allderidge has criticised the use of cases of restraint to support this argument. The dehumanising nature of restraint is often supported by reference to cases like that of James Norris, an American marine who was admitted to Bethlem in 1800. From 1804, Norris lived in an iron harness which had been specially made for him, and is pictured below. The effects of a severe head injury made Norris violent and dangerous, and all other methods of controlling his behaviour had apparently failed, resulting in serious injuries to staff and other patients. This type of restraint was thus extremely unusual, and cannot be used to make general points about contemporary ideas of insanity. What’s more, there are other suggestions that Norris was not necessarily confined because he was considered to be “a beast”: as Allderidge notes, the least-quoted aspect of Norris’ life at Bethlem is that “he occupied himself … by reading the books and newspapers which were given to him, and amusing himself with his pet cat”.[2]

James Norris, 1815
(incorrectly identified as William Norris
by newspapers).

In popular lore, the history of asylums is frequently presented as closely associated with mechanical restraint. Few people, for example, are aware of the “non-restraint” movement in England and Wales, which saw all restraining garments, straps or chains disappear from the vast majority of asylums for a half-century, from 1840. This rather complicates the widespread assumption that social or medical change must necessarily be progressive: if one encounters a strait-jacket in a museum collection, for example, it is much more likely to be a twentieth century garment than a Victorian one. This idea can be disturbing for those who like to imagine a humane present contrasted with a brutal past. The arguments used during the non-restraint debates indicate that this topic was also much more complex than ideas of progress allow for. Those who were wary of adopting a blanket policy of non-restraint argued that other measures of coercion were simply being substituted, including physical handling by staff, the use of locked rooms and padded cells, and “chemical restraint” by drugs (all issues, along with legal constraints, which remain concerns in psychiatry today).

Indeed, one of the most disturbing cases that I came across in my asylum research was well within the non-restraint period. In 1865, Henry Wright, a middle-aged clerk, was admitted to Bethlem after severely wounding himself by cutting his own throat. While in hospital, Henry made repeated efforts to tear open his wound, so that, a month after admission, it was noted that “[i]t is not safe to leave hold of his hands for an instant. He is looking ill and sedatives have very little effect on him.” For much of his time at Bethlem, Henry was accompanied everywhere by two attendants, who ceaselessly kept hold of his hands, severely limiting his movements. This was not considered to be restraint: nor did it help Henry, who made his last recorded suicide attempt a year after admission, following which he was discharged uncured.

Replica Strait-Jacket.

Sad cases like Henry’s remind us that the assumption that restraints are necessarily dehumanising can actually perpetuate the associations between madman and beast suggested by Andrew Scull. While strait-jackets are often assumed to be cruel, they also tend to be judged as evidence of the wearer’s problematic nature. When restraints appear in film or TV, they tend to be used to signify potential danger to others: as Henry’s case indicates, most people who wore such clothing were considered dangerous only to themselves. Even those who were thought to be a danger to others, like James Norris, do not necessarily fit the stereotype of the “raving lunatic”, and were able to carry out intellectual pursuits while confined. An excellent exhibition at Guy’s Hospital by artist Jane Fradgley (Held, on until 8 March 2013), offers a much more nuanced perspective on so-called “strong clothing”, suggesting that it can in some cases be protective, as well as restrictive. For people like Henry and James, restraint of some kind was inevitable: whether this was in the extreme form suffered by the latter, or the sedatives and physical holding used to try and prevent the former from severely injuring himself.


References:

[1] Andrew Scull, Museums of Madness (London: Allen Lane, 1979), pp. 64-6

[2] Patricia Allderidge, ‘Bedlam: fact or fantasy?’ in William Bynum, Roy Porter and Michael Shepherd eds. The Anatomy of Madness: Essays in the History of Psychiatry (London; New York: Tavistock Publications, 1985), Vol. 2: 17-33, pp. 25-6

 

Art and Psychiatry: Henry Scott Tuke

By Gemma Angel, on 15 October 2012

by Sarah Chaney

 

 

 

 

Henry Scott Tuke was a student at the Slade School of Fine Art in the 1870s, winning a three-year-scholarship in 1877: sadly, this was twenty years too early for his prize-winning work to have made it into the UCL Art Museum. The Tuke family had a number of connections with UCL, however: Henry’s elder brother was a medical student at University College Hospital.

Although biographies of the Newlyn painter often mention his doctor father, little is made of this connection – Henry remains a figure of interest for art and cultural historians, and his father for historians of medicine. Yet parallels between art and psychiatry were often emphasised in the late nineteenth century. Daniel Hack Tuke, Henry’s father, was a governor at Bethlem Royal Hospital from the 1870s until his death in 1897, and art was an important topic at the asylum, for patients and staff alike. Daniel’s obituary in the Hospital Magazine, Under the Dome, concentrated on his well-known son, noting that:

The early death of his eldest son, who was a brilliant student of University College Hospital, was a painful blow to Dr. Tuke, but no doubt he found some amount of solace under this loss in the successful career as a painter of his other son, Mr. H.S. Tuke. The latter has been a foremost member of the Newlyn School, and like most of his brother artists of that school of painters, has lived a good deal on his boat on the coast of Cornwall, and, we remember, that about three seasons since, Dr. Tuke, upon his first visit to the Hospital, after his autumn holiday, said to the present writer that he had much enjoyed it, having in good part spent it with his son upon the latter’s studio-boat. [1]

From this remark, it would seem that Henry and his father were close. It may be interesting to pay closer attention to the fact that Henry Scott Tuke is best remembered today for his Impressionist style paintings of male nudes, becoming a cult figure in gay cultural circles. Was this connection also made in his life? Certainly, homosexuality (or ‘sexual inversion’ as it was more commonly known at this time) was a topic of interest for many psychiatrists, among whom Daniel Hack Tuke was extremely prominent. In Austria, for example, forensic psychiatrist Richard von Krafft-Ebing devoted much of his magnum opus, Psychopathia Sexualis (first published in 1886) to the topic, later becoming a fervent opponent of Paragraph 26, which outlawed homosexual acts in German and Austrian law.

English sexologist, Havelock Ellis, meanwhile, had been mentored by Hack Tuke during his own days as a medical student. In the early 1890s Ellis and writer (and self-confessed ‘invert’) John Addington Symonds corresponded about a book they wished to write together on the topic. Ellis complained about the lack of interest from his medical colleagues, in particular that Daniel Hack Tuke himself “wrap[ped] a wet blanket around it [the topic], with averted eyes”. Symonds had similarly been annoyed in a letter to his friend, Edmund Gosse, that when he tried to ‘draw’ Tuke on the topic of ‘sexual inversion’ he “found that he preferred to discourse on ‘hypnotism’.”[2]

Symonds and Gosse were both certain of the ‘character’ of Henry Scott Tuke’s art (i.e. homosexual). Perhaps this was also why Symonds felt that Daniel would be a natural ally, in addition to the doctor being an old friend of his father’s. In 1891, he sent the psychiatrist his philosophical text on homosexuality, A Problem in Modern Ethics, but informed Havelock Ellis that Tuke “shrinks from entertaining the question in any practical way.”[3] A year later, Symonds was made ‘angry’ by Daniel’s attitude, seeing it as evidence of the refusal of English Medical Psychologists to discuss the topic at all. Tuke, Symonds claimed, was “unscientifically prejudiced to the last degree.”[4] Today, we may well feel that Symonds’ anger was justified, and that Daniel Hack Tuke should have lent his well-known name to a project, in support of his son. Or we may feel that the “sentimental” psychiatrist (as his colleagues described him) was the very worst person for Symonds and Ellis to approach, and that the topic of sexual inversion might, to him, have appeared personally painful. He may have worried that his involvement might reflect badly on his son’s career or, alternatively, he might not have regarded the topic as falling into the field of pathology at all. We can conclude, however, that Ellis and Symonds felt that Daniel Hack Tuke’s personal connections should encourage a commitment to exploring homosexuality both medically and politically, and that the quiet, serious doctor did not.

He did, however, keenly support his son’s career, attending exhibitions at the Royal Academy of Art – and, perhaps, at the Slade before that. While there is no work by Henry Scott Tuke himself in the UCL Collection, the Art Museum includes work by his teachers. The artist studied under Sir Edward Poynter, depicted here in a portrait by Alphonse Legros, another of Henry’s teachers.

Sir Edward Poynter by Alphonse Legros (1837 – 1911) from the UCL Art Museum

 



[1] Anon. “Daniel Hack Tuke, M.D., F.R.C.P., LL.D.” Under the Dome, vol. 4, no. 14 (June 1895)

[2] Havelock Ellis, John Addington Symonds, and Ivan Crozier, Sexual Inversion: A Critical Edition, (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008) , p. 39; Symonds to Gosse, 15 Nov 1890 in John Addington Symonds, The Letters of John Addington Symonds: Volume III 1885-1893, eds. Herbert M. Schueller and Robert L. Peters, ed.(Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1969) , p. 518

[3] Symonds to Ellis, July 1891, Symonds, John Addington, 1969, p. 587

[4] Symonds to Ellis, July 7 1892, Symonds, John Addington, 1969, p. 710

A Room With A View? Asylum Art in the 19th Century

By Gemma Angel, on 6 August 2012

by Sarah Chaney

 

“A room without pictures is as bad as a room without windows.”

 

 

So wrote a newspaper reporter in the Dumfries Herald in 1881, when commenting approvingly on the therapeutic environment of the Crichton Royal Institution and Southern Counties Asylum in Dumfries. Like many other psychiatric hospitals of the period, the galleries of this institution were indeed heavily decorated. Domestic furnishings, pictures, birdcages, plants and drapes were all intended to contribute to a domestic appearance, thought to be both comforting and morally and spiritually uplifting. Indeed, the domestic environment of the asylum was often interpreted as directly curative. The annual reports of many asylum medical superintendents frequently focused on improvements to facilities, with very little information that we might regard as directly medical, such as physical and pharmaceutical intervention.

But what pictures were displayed? Art was often donated by benefactors, meaning there was little choice as to what could actually be shown in the Hospital. Sometimes this might lead to what seem, today, to be surprising displays. Art historian Nicholas Tromans has identified one of the pictures in images of wards at the Bethlem Royal Hospital as an engraving after Landseer’s Otter Hunt. As he points out, today the work is considered too distressing to exhibit, making it seem a picture that we might not imagine to have had a particularly calming or uplifting influence on patients! Another hunting image in Landseer’s work, from the collections of the UCL Art Museum, is shown below. On other occasions, art might be commissioned by the governors of a Hospital. The theatre at the exclusive Normansfield Hospital, set up by John Langdon Down in 1868 for young people with learning disabilities, was partially painted by Marianne North. The walls are also adorned with sets from Gilbert and Sullivan’s Ruddigore at the Savoy Theatre, presumably bought at auction in the early 1890s.

Edwin Landseer (1802-1873) – His Master’s Dog (UCL Art Museum)

 Doctors also often regarded themselves as artists. Medical obituaries of the late nineteenth century regularly highlighted the various creative pursuits of psychiatrists, seen as an important indication of their intellectual status as Victorian gentlemen. Participation in musical and dramatic performances was expected of all asylum staff, including the low-paid ward attendants. Indeed, when one attendant walked out of a band practice session at the Crichton Royal Institution in Dumfries in December 1880, he was told by the superintendent to “choose whether to be obedient, contented and loyal or leave the place”. He selected the latter, and left that same evening. Theo Hyslop, superintendent of Bethlem Royal Hospital from 1898 to 1911, was a keen artist, who exhibited at the Royal Academy and later became a controversial art critic.

Hyslop also seems to have encouraged his patients to paint, and organised a public exhibition of some of this art at Bethlem in 1900. Indeed, in many asylums, some of the art on display was certainly created by patients. Sometimes, artists happened to be resident within the institution. Richard Dadd, for example, created most of his famous works while an inmate of Bethlem and, later, Broadmoor. The un-schooled James Henry Pullen, known as the “genius of Earlswood Asylum”, apparently caught the interest of Edwin Landseer, who sent the young man some of his paintings to copy: another connection between Landseer’s work and the asylum. Other patients may have practised decorative work. In 1883, the superintendent of Bethlem reported that “during the past year we have been engaged in painting artistically one of the male infirmaries, and although it has been somewhat difficult to get a sufficient number of the patients occupied, yet, on the whole the result has been satisfactory, we have had not only kindly assistance from ladies, who have no connection with Bethlem, but we have had several patients among the ladies who have developed quite a taste for the work, and next year I hope to carry this decorative work into several of the other wards.” The following year it was recorded that female patients had been engaged in the painting of a dormitory: such decorative work can be seen in the photograph below.

Dormitory at Bethlem in early twentieth century (Bethlem Royal Hospital Archives & Museum)

As Savage’s words indicate, painting was considered an occupational pursuit: something that would relieve the tedium of asylum life and distract patients from the “morbid introspection” that many doctors blamed for the onset and prolongation of insanity. Imagination and creativity, however, were also considered to be important elements of the human psyche by many asylum practitioners of the period, traits which separated humans from animals and thus aided the “degraded” asylum patient towards mental health. Art in the asylum thus served multiple functions, something that continues to this day through such organisations as the Bethlem Gallery and Museum and the Langdon Down Museum.