Classics in the History of Psychology

An internet resource developed by
Christopher D. Green
York University, Toronto, Ontario

ISSN 1492-3173

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By William H.R. Rivers (1920)

Posted March 2000


This book has two parts. The first gives the substance of lectures delivered in the Psychological Laboratory at Cambridge in the summer of 1919, and repeated in the spring of the present year at the Phipps Clinic of the Johns Hopkins Medical School, Baltimore, under the direction of Professor Adolf Meyer. The second part consists of appendices in which are republished occasional papers written as the result of clinical experience gained during the war. A few alterations have been made in these, chiefly in order to bring the terminology into line with that adopted in the body of the book, and in the second Appendix the original paper has been amplified. A few of the opinions expressed in these appendices differ in some respects from those of the lectures, but have been left as originally stated because they present alternative points of view which may possibly be nearer the truth than those adopted as the result of later deliberation.

The general aim of the book is to put into a biological setting the system of psycho-therapy which came to be generally adopted in Great Britain in the treatment of the psycho-neuroses of war. This system was developed in the main at the Maghull Military Hospital under the direction of Dr. R.G. Rows, to whom I owe my introduction to this branch of medicine and my thanks for much help and guidance when serving under him as medical officer.

My thanks are also due in especial measure to Dr. W. H. Bryce, who was in charge of Craiglockhart War Hospital while I was working there. That hospital gave an unrivalled opportunity for gaining experience of the psycho-neuroses of war, and any use that I was able to make of that opportunity, [p. vi] in spite of serious difficulties, is due to the never-failing help a~td encouragement of Dr. Bryce.

I am greatly indebted to the Medical Research Committee (now the Medical Research Council) for the assistance which made it possible for me to work at Maghull and with the Royal Air Force. I am glad also to express my thanks to the Medical Department of the R.A.F. for the opportunity of acquiring experience in the varied psychological problems presented by Aviation in time of war, and to my colleagues in that Force for their help in making use of this experience.

I am indebted for permission to publish the appendices to the editors of the Lancet and Psychoanalytic Review, to the Royal Society of Medicine, the National Committee of Mental Hygiene of the United States, the Medical Research Council, and the Medical Department of the Royal Air Force.


St. John's College, Cambridge,
15, 1920.