Erik Linstrum is a historian of modern Britain and the British Empire. His first book, Making Minds Modern: Psychology in the British Empire, traces the global circulation of innovations in mind science — laboratory measurements, psychoanalysis, and mental testing — which reshaped British rule in unexpected ways. The promise of measuring and managing minds anywhere in the world encouraged far-reaching plans for the transformation of colonized societies, from child-rearing and character-building to the promotion of talent in schools, factories, and armies. Even as the techniques of mind science became increasingly commonplace across the world, however, the modernizing ambitions which fueled their movement were seldom realized in practice. As the product of a surprisingly fraught relationship between experts and the imperial state, the strange career of psychology in the empire illustrates the limitations as well as the reach of expert knowledge on a global scale.
Linstrum received his Ph.D. from Harvard and held fellowships with the Institute of Historical Research in London and the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard before coming to Michigan. His articles have appeared in Past & Present, the Journal of British Studies, and the Journal of the History of Ideas. He has received the Walter D. Love Prize from the North American Conference on British Studies, the FHHS Article Prize from the Forum for History of Human Science, the Bowdoin Prize for best graduate essay at Harvard, and the Harold K. Gross Prize for best dissertation in the History Department at Harvard. He plans to write his next book on the history of technology and violence in the British Empire since the late nineteenth century.
Making Minds Modern: Psychology in the British Empire (Harvard University Press, forthcoming 2015).
“Britain.” In Blackwell Encyclopedia of Race, Ethnicity, and Nationalism, ed. John Stone, et al. (Wiley-Blackwell, 2014).
“The Making of a Translator: James Strachey and the Language of Social Therapy.” Journal of British Studies 53, no. 3 (2014).
“The Politics of Psychology in the British Empire, 1898-1960.” Past & Present 215 (2012).