Agitations: mental health activism, anti-capitalism and the radical left in Britain since 1956


  • Dr Steffan Blayney

    University of Sheffield

Project summary

The dismantling of the old asylum system in the late 1950s brought mental health issues into public focus. At the same time, a vibrant, left-wing movement was finding new areas of discussion. In this context, a radical, anti-capitalist strand of survivor-led activism was able to develop.

This project explores connections between mental health activism and the radical left in Britain. I aim to tell the story of a group of activists often ignored by historians. I will show how changes in legislation and political culture have shaped their activism. I will examine the relationships – both productive and antagonistic – between mental health activists and the organised left.

As we see a resurgence of radical politics alongside increased demands on mental health provision, we will provide an account of the history of the complex relationships between survivor activism and radical politics. This will be useful to historians, policy makers and campaigners.