Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts




Dr. Tracey L. Adams

Second Advisor

Prof. Mike Carroll


In recent times, psychiatry as a practice, profession and a medical subspecialty has received a lot of attention from researchers. Studies on psychiatry have however focused more on issues of social control, treatment modalities and historical accounts than they have on its professional development and role as a professional subspecialty. This thesis will uncover the professionalisation of psychiatry and its relationship with medicine, through a sociological study and analysis of secondary and primary historical sources. From the study, it is revealed that psychiatry’s relationship with regular medicine was shaped by its efforts to gain, enhance and maintain legitimacy. In the nineteenth century, this led it to distance itself from medicine, but after medicine attained more legitimacy by the First World War, psychiatry drew closer and sought to establish more ‘medicalized’ forms of assessment and treatment. The psychiatric profession was shaped to a large extent by its attempts to identify with and be recognized as part of regular medicine. The development and professionalisation of psychiatry suggests that the drive for legitimacy is crucial in shaping inter-professional relationships.



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