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THE EARLY YEARS OF PSYCHOLOGY

France's neighbours only slowly realised that its revolution in 1789 could be dangerous for them. Military power and the authority of kingship were almost useless against revolutionary ideas. In France the revolution had been made by the

"bourgeoisie", or middle class, leading the peasants and urban working classes. In England the bourgeoisie and the gentry had acted together for centuries in the House of Commons, and had become the most powerful class in Britain in the seventeenth century. They had no sympathy with the French revolutionaries, and were frightened by the danger of "awakening" the working classes. They saw the danger of revolution in the British countryside, where the enclosures were happening, and in the towns, to which man y of the landless were going in search of work. They also saw the political dangers which could develop from the great increase in population . Several radicals sympathised with the cause of the French revolutionaries, and called for reforms in Britain. In other countries in Europe such sympathy was seen as an attack on the aristocracy. But in England both the gentry and the bourgeoisie felt they were being attacked, and the radicals were accused of putting Brita in in danger. Tory crowds attacked the homes of radicals in Birmingham and several other cities. The Whig Parry was split. Most feared "Jacobinism'' , as sympathy with the revolutionaries was called, and joined William Pitt , "the Younger" (the son of Lord Chatham) , while those who wanted reform stayed with the radical Whig leader , Charles James Fox. In spite of its small size, Fox's parry formed the link between the Whigs of the eighteenth century and the Liberals of the nineteenth century. Not all the radicals sympathised with the

revolutionaries in France . In man y ways Edmund Burke was a conservative, in spite of his support for the American colonists in 1776. He now quarreled with other radicals, and wrote Reflections on the Revolution in France, which became a popular book. He feared that the established order of kings in Europe would fall. Tom Paine, who had also supported the American colonists, wrote in answer

The Rights of Man, in which he defended the rights of the ordinary people against the power of the monarchy and the aristocrats. The ideas in this book were thought to be so dangerous that Paine had to escape to France. He never returned to Britain . But the book itself has remained an important work on the question of political

freedom. These matters were discussed almost entirely by the middle class and the gentry. Hardly any working class voices were heard , but it should be noted that the first definitely working-class political organization, the Corresponding Society , was established at this time. It did not last long, because the government closed it down in 1798, and it only had branches in London, Norwich, Sheffield, Nottingham and one or two other centres.

The French Revolution had created fear all over Europe. The British government was so afraid that revolution would spread to Britain that it imprisoned radical leaders. It was particularly frightened that the army would be influenced by these dangerous ideas. Until then, soldiers had always lived in inns and private homes. Now the government built army camps, where soldiers could live separated from the ordinary people. The government also brought together yeomen and gentry who supported the ruling establishment and trained them as soldiers. The government claimed that these "yeomanry" forces were created in case of a French attack. This may have been true, but they were probably useless against an enemy army, and they were used to prevent revolution by the poor and discontented.



As an island , Britain was in less danger, and as a result was slower than other European states to make war on the French Republic. But in 1793 Britain went to war after France had invaded the Low Countries (today, Belgium and Holland). One by one the European countries were defeated by Napoleon, and forced to ally themselves with him. Most of Europe fell under Napoleon's control.

Britain decided to fight France at sea because it had a stronger navy, and because its own survival depended on control of its trade routes . British policy was to damage French trade by preventing French ships, including their navy, from moving freely in and out of French seaports. The commander of the British fleet , Admiral Nelson, won brilliant victories over the French navy, near the coast of Egypt, at Copenhagen, and finally near Spain, at Trafalgar in 1805, where hedestroyed the French- Spanish fleet. Nelson was himself killed at Trafalgar , but became one of Britain's greatest national heroes. His words to the fleet before the battle of Trafalgar, "England expects that every man will do his duty, " have remained a reminder of patriotic duty in time of national danger. In the same year as Trafalgar, in 1805. a British army landed in Portugal to fight the French . This army, with its Portuguese and Spanish allies, was eventually commanded by Wellington, a man who had fought in Indi a. But fighting the French on land was an entirely different matter. Almost everyone in Europe believed the French army and its generals to be the best in the world . Wellington was one of the very few generals who did not . " I am not afraid of them." he wrote on his appointment as commander. "I suspect that all the Continental armies were more than half beaten before the battle was begun . I, at least , will not be frightened beforehand ." Like Nelson he quickly proved to be a great commander. After several victories against

the French in Spain he invaded France. Napoleon , weakened by his disastrous invasion of Russia, surrendered in 1814 . But the following year he escaped and quickly assembled an army in France . Wellington with the timely help of the Prussian army. finally defeated Napoleon at Waterloo in Belgium in June 1815 .

 

THE EARLY YEARS OF PSYCHOLOGY

It is often claimed that psychology began in 1879 when Wilhelm Wundt (1832—1920) opened his laboratory at the University of Leipzig. Wundt had been trained to practise medicine, had studied physiology, and had served as a laboratory assistant to the great Helmholtz. He also held an academic position in philosophy. Wundt was a scientist-philosopher with an interest in such psychological processes as sensation, perception, at­tention, word associations, and emotions.

Although others might be credited with founding psychology as a sep­arate science (for example, Helmholtz), Wundt gets credit for getting psychology recognized as a science. In fact, Wundt wrote in the preface of the first edition of his Principles of Physiological Psychology (1874): "The work I here present is the attempt to mark out a new domain of science." Clearly, Wundt's intention was to define the parameters of a new science.

Additionally, it is no accident that psychology began in Germany. Experimental physiology was well established in Germany, which was not the case in France or England. Biology and physiology were stressed in Germany, while physics and chemistry were stressed in France and En­gland. In short, the climate was perfect in Germany for the emergence of the new science of psychology.

For Wundt, psychology was the scientific study of the mind. Under carefully-controlled laboratory conditions, Wundt and his assistants test­ed and retested his hypotheses. The work performed in Wundt's laboratory focused on the discovery of basic elements of thought. Wundt wanted no less than to systematically describe the basic elements of mental life. Because the psychologists in Wundt's laboratory were mostly interested in describing the structure of the mind and its operations, Wundt's approach to psychology is referred to as structuralism (the school of psychology founded by Wundt that studied the mind by attempting to break mental activity into its component parts). The primary method used by structur­alists to study the mind is introspection. Introspection involves describing mental responses to conscious experience in great detail. For example, if one of Wundt's assistants was introspecting on an apple, it would not be enough to say that it was red and shiny. Instead, one would have to de­scribe the actual sensations experienced and the feelings elicited by those experiences.

In the early 20th century the number of psychologists increased rapid­ly. Structuralism was criticized on many grounds, specifically its restricted definition of psychology and its introspective method. A number of new schools of psychology developed early in the 20th century, usually in op­position to a point of view or approach stressed by one or more existing schools.

 


Date: 2014-12-29; view: 728


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