The historical development of psychiatry in South Africa since 1652

Lynn Gillis
South African Journal of Psychiatry | Vol 18, No 3 | a355 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajpsychiatry.v18i3.355 | © 2012 Lynn Gillis | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 12 March 2012 | Published: 01 August 2012

About the author(s)

Lynn Gillis, Emeritus Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of Cape Town, South Africa


The history of psychiatry in South Africa stretches back to the first settlement by Europeans in the Cape of Good Hope in 1652. Its development falls into 3 phases with some overlaps. The first was a period of expediency and restraint during the early stages of the occupation of the Cape by the Dutch East India Company; the second, which could be called the psychiatric hospital era, was under the control of the British from the earlier part of the 19th century towards the beginning of the 20th century; and the third, broadly speaking, is the modern period since then. This article traces major developments over these 5 centuries to the present time, when psychiatry has become a highly evolved modern medical discipline.


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