in Colonial Madness

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print May 2007 | ISBN: 9780226429724
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226429779 | DOI:

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A compound called 4560 RP—better known as chlorpromazine—was an antihistamine that proved to be the first effective treatment for schizophrenia. Chlorpromazine virtually transformed psychiatry in industrialized countries overnight. The development of chlorpromazine is but one of the historical circumstances that shaped the rise and decline of the Algiers School as a scientific center on the imperial periphery. Colonial psychiatrists were the first to implement entire networks of psychiatric care structured around the principle of mental hygiene and prophylaxis. They made Algiers the undisputed center for the study of the relationship between mental illness and race. Psychiatrists in the Maghreb prodigiously developed the somatic treatment of mental disorders, pushing its limits, testing its safety and efficacy. Yet the most lasting innovation of the century literally passed them by. It was only by a historical accident that the chlorpromazine story was centered in Paris and not in Tunis or Algiers. The first tests of chlorpromazine's immediate antecedent took place in Tunisia.

Keywords: chlorpromazine; schizophrenia; psychiatry; Algiers School; psychiatric care; Maghreb; mental illness; Tunisia; race

Chapter.  2360 words. 

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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