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Sargant, William Walters (1907-1988)

Sargant, William Walters, 1907-1988.
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About this work


Sargant was an outspoken supporter and practitioner of what he termed the "practical rather than philosophical approaches" to the treatment of mental illness, pioneering and publicising various physical treatments and vociferously opposing the use of psychoanalytic techniques. The majority of the collection consists of his writings, both published and unpublished, supplemented by a small quantity of correspondence and other material. In addition, the collection contains clinical records for about 500 cases from Sutton Emergency Hospital in the 1940s. As well as covering clinical subjects (in Sections D, E, and F) and Sargant's views on the practice of psychiatry in general (Section B), the collection also contains material relating to his interest in the related issues of religious conversion and brainwashing (Section G).



Physical description

21 boxes


The material is arranged by section as follows:

A. Personal, biographical and general correspondence c.1920s-1981;

B. Institutions

B.1 Maudsley Hospital 1948-1949;

B.2 St Thomas's Hospital 1948-c.1965;

B.3 Other 1948);

C. General psychiatry

C.1 Practice of psychiatry c.1936-c.1970s;

C.2 America c.1943-1960s);

D. Early work

D.1 General/drugs c.1936-1948;

D.2 Anaemia and diabetes 1931-1933;

D.3 Bromide intoxication c.1936;

D.4 Benzedrine 1936-c.1942;

D.5 Anorexia c.1936-1966;

D.6 Hyperventilation 1938-1940;

D.7 Epilepsy c.1939-c.1950s);

E. War

E.1 Correspondence 1940-1975;

E.2 Writings 1940-[1967];

E.3 Sutton Emergency Hospital clinical records 1940-1947);

F. Post-war work

F.1 Abreaction 1947-c.1950s;

F.2 Anxiety c.1958-1967;

F.3 Depression 1942-1982;

F.4 Drugs 1956-1976;

F.5 Electrical convulsion therapy 1944-1951;

F.6 Insulin 1938-c.1957;

F.7 Leucotomy and psychosurgery 1937-1973;

F.8 Narcosis c.1968-c.1973;

F.9 Phobias 1969-1970;

F.10 Schizophrenia c.1940s-c.1966;

F.11 Other 1950-1967);

G. Conversion, religion and brainwashing

G.1 General c.1940s-1980;

G.2 Battle for the Mind 1957-1959;

G.3 The Mind Possessed c.1973;

G.4 Lectures and papers c.1940s-1973;

G.5 "Hearst" 1975-1976;

G.6 Soviet propaganda c.1959-1960s;

G.7 Police confessions 1959-1963);

H. Medico-legal

H.1 Physiology of violent behaviour c.1943;

H.2 Harold Challoner 1963-1965;

H.3 Timothy Evans 1953-1966);

J. British Broadcasting Corporation

J.1 Scripts and transcripts c.1962;

J.2 Writings about television 1967-1968)

Dr Dally reported that the material was in considerable disarray on arrival at her home and she subsequently grouped the majority of the papers into categories by subject, most of these representing either medical conditions or methods of treatment. It was felt that by this stage the original order of the papers had been irrevocably lost and that any substantial re-arrangement by the archivist would represent an equally artificial order. The present subject categories, with some re-adjustments and additions, therefore reflect in large measure the structure imposed by Ann Dally from her perspective as William Sargant's biographer, medical historian and retired medical practitioner. These groupings have, however, been re-arranged by the archivist to reflect, very approximately, different phases of Sargant's career, e.g. into "early" and "post-war" work, although there is a degree of chronological overlap between these. There was also considerable duplication of reprints, drafts, etc. between overlapping categories and these have, to a large extent, been weeded out. The usual disadvantages of an arrangement by subject, however, still apply. For example, many of the subjects/ conditions/ treatments are heavily inter-related, e.g. "schizophrenia" and "insulin treatment", and it is necessary to consult material in both sections. Likewise, many of the treatments covered by subject categories in Section F, "Post-war work", were also pioneered during the Second World War and there is material about them in Section E.

Acquisition note

These records were delivered to the Contemporary Medical Archives Centre (known as Archives and Manuscripts following its merger with Western Manuscripts in July 2000) by Ann Dally in August 1995. They were accessioned as a gift from Sargant's widow, Margaret (Acc No 582). Two additional files (A/22) were found amongst a deposit of Ann Dally's personal papers which was made in 2007.

Biographical note

Born 24 April 1907

Qualified in medicine, St Mary's Hospital, 1930

House Physician and House Surgeon to the Medical and Surgical Professorial Units, St Mary's Hospital, 1930-1931

House Physician to the Neurological Unit, St Mary's Hospital, 1931

Resident Medical Superintendent, St Mary's Hospital, 1932

Assistant to the Medical Professorial Unit, St Mary's Hospital, 1932-1934

Member of the Royal College of Physicians, 1933

Period of illness and resignation from St Mary's; locum at Hanwell Mental Hospital, Middlesex and periods in private and general practice, 1934

Medical Officer, Maudsley Hospital, 1935-1946

Clinical Assistant to the Psychiatric Department, St George's Hospital, 1937-1942

Rockefeller Fellowship and Research Fellow in Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital, 1938-1939

Deputy Clinical Director, Sutton Emergency Hospital (Maudsley Hospital), 1939-1945

Acting Honorary Psychiatrist to West End Hospital for Nervous Disorders, c.1942-1945

An Introduction to Physical Methods of Treatment in Psychiatry, 1944

Visiting Professor of Neuropsychiatry, Duke University Medical School, North Carolina, USA, 1947-1948

Consultant, St Thomas' Hospital, 1948

Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, 1949

Registrar, Royal Medico-Psychological Association, 1952-1971

President of the Section of Psychiatry of the Royal Society of Medicine, 1956-1957

The Battle for the Mind, 1957

Associate Secretary, World Psychiatric Association, 1961-1966

Autobiography: The Unquiet Mind, 1967

Retired from St Thomas' Hospital, 1972

The Mind Possessed, 1973

Died 27 August 1988

Related material

Held in the Iconographic Collection, Wellcome Library: video tapes of two interviews with Sargant conducted by Dr Ernesto Spinelli, made for Channel 4 TV in 1986-1987: The Mind Possessed on his views on conversion as a physiological phenomenon and The Unquiet Mind on his career more generally [Wellcome Library/IC/70]. Material elsewhere: The Museum of Mankind holds some audio-visual material relating to Sargant’s research for The Mind Possessed.

Copyright note

Copyright in most records will be held by Sargant's family, and researchers wishing to publish copies from this collection should contact them for permission. Belmont Hospital, from which some records originated, is closed, and there is no record of who would have inherited the copyright of records originating here.

Ownership note

The records had previously been moved from Sargant's office to Dr. Ann Dally’s home in order to facilitate research on a biography (a project subsequently abandoned).


  • English

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