Historiography Amidst the Institutionalization of Academic Psychology. United States, 1890–1989


The appearance of undergraduate history of psychology courses goes back to the first decades of the twentieth century. To understand their characteristics, one must recognize the particular intellectual and socio-professional environment in which these courses proliferated. If we assume a social or socio-professional perspective on the history of psychological science, the United States then becomes the cradle of modern psychology. This work focuses on the pedagogical or propaedeutic side of historiography: that is, its transmutation, insertion and use of historiography as a curricular content within official institutions and modes of psychologists’ formal academic education. With the aim of analyzing these courses’ changes throughout the twentieth century in the United States, we offer a periodization of the history of such courses, linking them with the development and institutionalization of academic psychology and with North-American historiography of psychology. Sources’ retrieval and analysis would yield a set of three periods: an initial period (1890–1929) marked by a historiographical and curricular tension between the philosophical legitimation of psychology and its scientific refinement, a second period (1929–1960) characterized by the appearance of historical textbooks, manuals and works rooted in the positivist and experimentalist project of psychology and by an incipient official support on the implementation of historical courses in psychology curricula, and a final period (1960–1989) marked by the professionalization of psychological historiography, by systematic, official support to undergraduate historical education, and by debates and tensions at a sub-disciplinary level.

History of Psychology; Professionalization of Psychology; Teaching the History of Psychology; Historiography; Curriculum

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