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Wellcome Library

Sargant, William Walters (1907-1988)


Reference code(s): GB 0120 PP/WWS

Held at: Wellcome Library

Title: Sargant, William Walters (1907-1988)

Date(s): c1920s-1987

Level of description: Collection (fonds)

Extent: 21 boxes

Name of creator(s): Sargant | William Walters | 1907-1988 | psychiatrist


Administrative/Biographical history:

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; published 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; published The Battle for the Mind, 1957; Associate Secretary, World Psychiatric Association, 1961-1966; published autobiography The Unquiet Mind, 1967; retired from St Thomas' Hospital, 1972; published The Mind Possessed, 1973; died 27 August 1988.


Scope and content/abstract:

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 The majority of the collection consists of his writings, both published and unpublished, supplemented by a small quantity of correspondence and other material.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).


Language/scripts of material: English

System of arrangement:

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.

Conditions governing access:

The papers are available subject to the usual conditions of access to Archives and Manuscripts material, by prior appointment with the Archivist after the completion of a Reader's Undertaking. Because of the nature of Sargant's work, attention is particularly drawn to the rule that readers shall not publish or communicate to any other person the names or other particulars of individuals named in records which contain information of a private or sensitive nature. In addition, some records are subject to restricted access (these are marked by an asterisk in the detailed list).

Conditions governing reproduction:

Photocopies/photographs/microfilm are supplied for private research only at the Archivist's discretion. Please note that material may be unsuitable for copying on conservation grounds, and that photographs cannot be photocopied in any circumstances. Readers are restricted to 100 photocopies in twelve months. Researchers who wish to publish material must seek copyright permission from the copyright owner.

Physical characteristics:

Finding aids:

Catalogued by Jennifer Haynes, CMAC, Wellcome Library, May 1996. Hard-copy catalogue with personal names index of main correspondents available in Wellcome Library.

Detailed catalogue


Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information:


Archival history:

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

Immediate source of acquisition:

These records were delivered to the Wellcome Library by Ann Dally in August 1995. They were accessioned as a gift from Sargant's widow, Margaret (Acc No 582).


Existence and location of originals:

Existence and location of copies:

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 1986-7: The Mind Possessed re his views on conversion as a physiological phenomenon and The Unquiet Mind re 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.

Publication note:



Archivist's note: Description compiled by Helen Wakely

Rules or conventions: Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions: December 2000

Anaemia | Diseases | Pathology
Anxiety disorders | Diseases | Pathology
Behavioural symptoms | Diseases | Pathology
Blood disorders | Diseases | Pathology
Brain diseases | Diseases | Pathology
Clinical medicine | Medical sciences
Depression | Diseases | Pathology
Diabetes mellitus | Diseases | Pathology
Drugs | Pharmacology
Electroconvulsive therapy | Medical treatment | Therapy | Medical sciences
Epilepsy | Diseases | Pathology
Hospitals | Health services
Insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus | Diseases | Pathology
Lectures (teaching method) | Teaching methods
Mental diseases | Psychopathology | Psychiatry
Neurosurgery | Surgery | Medical sciences
Nutritional and metabolic diseases | Diseases | Pathology
Nutritional diseases | Diseases | Pathology
Patients | Health services
Phobias | Diseases | Pathology
Physicians | Medical personnel | Medical profession | Medical sciences
Police | Law enforcement | Social control, formal | Sociology
Programme content | Broadcasting programmes | Broadcasting
Propaganda | Persuasion | Communication process
Psychoanalysis | Clinical psychology | Psychiatry
Psychotic disorders | Diseases | Pathology
Religious belief | Theology
Religious experience | Religion
Schizophrenia | Diseases | Pathology
Television | Broadcasting
Medical institutions
Social sciences
Social welfare

Personal names
Challoner | Harold | fl 1963-1965
Evans | Timothy John | d 1950 | supposed murderer
Sargant | William Walters | 1907-1988 | psychiatrist

Corporate names
BBC | British Broadcasting Corporation x British Broadcasting Corporation
Maudsley Hospital
St Thomas' Hospital | London
Sutton Emergency Hospital

USA | North America
USSR | Eastern Europe