UCL Psychology and Language Sciences


Sarah Marks

Sarah Marks


Supervisors: Sonu Shamdasani and Susan Morrissey

Research Interests

I am a historian of science and medicine whose research focuses on the history and philosophy of psychopathology and psychotherapeutics in the modern period. My PhD traces the development of concepts and aetiologies of mental disorders in East Germany and Czechoslovakia under Communism, drawing on material from psychiatry, psychology and neurology. I am particularly interested in the transnational exchanges which shape these concepts during the Cold War, including those with the USSR and other countries in the Soviet sphere of influence, as well as engagement with science from the 'West'. My research challenges assumptions about the 'Pavlovization' of the sciences of mental disorder in the Soviet satellites, demonstrating that researchers in this field were far from isolated from international developments, and were able to draw on a broad range of theoretical models (albeit providing they employed certain political strategies). As well as addressing a historiographical lacuna, this project aims to offer new understandings of the nature of politics, society and intellectual culture under Communism in East Germany and Czechoslovakia. In addition, I address broader questions about the history of psychiatry and its related disciplines in the second half of the 20th century, particularly with respect to the generation of new theories of mental disorder through interaction with other fields in science and technology; including cybernetics, genetics, pharmacology and ecology.

In addition to my Central and East European interests, I continue to pursue research on psychotherapeutics and mental health policy in the anglophone context. I have a long-standing interest in the development of cognitive and behavioural therapies since the 1950s, and the political and economic contexts in which CBT has become the dominant form of psychotherapy in the NHS. With this in mind, I organised an international conference in October 2013 on the history of psychotherapeutics from the York Retreat to the present day. See here for details of the conference and call for papers.

I currently hold a Scouloudi Junior Research Fellowship at the Institute of Historical Research, University of London. From January 2014 I will be a teaching fellow at UCL Department of Science and Technology Studies, where I will lecture on the course 'Madness and Society', looking at how mental health and illness have been interpreted and treated since the 17th Century. I also contribute to the Central and East European History of Medicine Network, and the UCL Centre for the History of Psychological Disciplines Blog.


Book Chapter: 'CBT in Britain: Historical Development and Current Status' in Windy Dryden (ed.) Cognitive Behaviour Therapies (Sage Publications, January 2012) 

preprint available online

Details of book

Book Review: 'Volker Roelcke, Paul Weindling, Louise Westwood (eds) International Relations in Psychiatry: Britain, Germany, & the United States to World War II' Social History of Medicine, 2011.

Preprint available online

Conference and Seminar Papers

Commentator for 'Science, Sexuality, and Transnational Circulation in the 20th Century' and 'Health, Ethnicity and Gender in Early 20th Century Eastern Europe' panels,European Social Science History Conference, Vienna, 23rd-26th April 2014 

'"I am a medical doctor, a scientific worker and a socialist - but it is not in my personality to be political": Examining Psychiatry in Czechoslovakia through the Career of Vladimír Vondráček' Association for Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies Convention, Boston, 21st-24th November 2013

'Psychiatric Knowledge on the Soviet Periphery' Director's Seminar, Institute of Historical Research, 23rd October 2013

'Welcome Address: Psychotherapeutics in History' and 'Rediscovering Pavlov: The Development of Behavioural Therapies in Postwar Britain' From Moral Treatment to Psychological Therapies: Histories of Psychotherapeutics from the York Retreat to the Present Day, UCL, 11th-13th October 2013

'Psychoanalysis and Modernism in the Prague Surrealist Circle' and 'Psychiatric Modernity in Communist Czechoslovakia' Invited Speaker for Comparative Modernisms: Psychology, Literature, Affect conference, Seikei University, Tokyo, 13th-14th September 2013

'Rewriting Marxism for the Computer Age: The "Scientific-Technical Revolution" in Cold War Czechoslovakia and East Germany' 24th International Congress of the History of Science, Technology and Medicine, Manchester 22nd-28th July 2013

'Socialist Neurosis: 'The Scientific-Technical Revolution' and Neurasthenia in the GDR'Work in Progress Seminar, UCL German Department, 17th June 2013

'Constructing Psychiatric Knowledge in Cold War East Germany and Czechoslovakia'Psychiatriegeschichte Arbeitsgruppe, Institut für Geschichte der Medizin,  Charité, Berlin23rd April 2013

'Imagining the Cybernetic Future in 1960s Czechoslovakia' Invited Paper for Visions of Socialism(s) in Eastern Europe: Visual Culture and the Writing of History, CERI Science-Po, CNRS Paris, 13th-14th December 2012

'Therapy from Robert Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy to CBT' The Anatomy of Melancholy: A User's Guide mini-conference with Stan's Cafe Theatre Group, Warwick Arts Centre, 26th November 2012

'"The Golem Made Real": Cybernetics, Automatic Machines and the Reinterpretation of Affect in Cold War Czechoslovakia' Society for the Social History of Medicine Conference, London, 10th-12th September 2012

'Patient Biography and Theories of Disorder in Cognitive Behaviour Therapies' Cheiron:International Society for the History of the Behavioural and Social Sciences Conference, Montreal, 18th-22nd July 2012

'"Proven Effectiveness": Evidence-Based Medicine and the Rise of Cognitive Behaviour Therapies since 1950' Joint Meeting of the British Society for the History of Science, The History of Science Society and the Canadian Society for the History of Science, Philadelphia, 11th-14th July 2012

'From Western Pseudoscience to the Science of the Socialist Future: The Fortunes of Cybernetics in Cold War Czechoslovakia' East-West Cultural Exchanges and the Cold War, Jyväskylä, Finland, 14th-16th June 2012

'Reconsidering the Thaw in Czechoslovakia: Cultural and Intellectual Shifts in Science after 1956' British Association for Slavonic and East European Studies Annual Conference, Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, 31st March-2nd April 2012

'From Pavlov's Dogs to Cybernetic Tortoises: Psychiatric Science in Communist Czechoslovakia' East and East Central European Seminar Series, University of Oxford, 21st July 2011

'The Brain in East Germany: The Curious Case of Karl Leonhard' UCL SSEES Centre for the Study of Central Europe Seminar Series, 16th October 2010

'Cognitive Behavioural Therapies in Britain: 1952-2010' European Society for the History of the Human Sciences Annual Conference, Utrecht, 23rd-27th August 2010

'The Neuro Turn' panel participant, The Future of the History of Medicine Conference, Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine at UCL, 7th-10th July 2010  

'Quaker Practice and Psychiatric Therapy: Moral Treatment at the York Retreat in the 18th and 19th Centuries' Society for the Social History of Medicine Postgraduate Conference, Dublin, 16th-18th April 2009 

'"Building Up the Substance of the Nation": Evolution, Eugenics and Health in Czech Nation-Building' UCL SSEES Centre for the Study of Central Europe Seminar Series, 3rd December 2008 

'Coming to Terms with the Past: The Romani Minority, Eugenics and the Politics of Medical History in Czechoslovakia' Society for the Social History of Medicine Annual Conference, University of Glasgow, September 2008 

'Eugenics and the Politics of Reproduction in Czechoslovakia' Centre for East European Lanuage-Based Area Studies Postgraduate Conference, St Antony's College, Oxford, October 2007