Faculty and Staff

Hannah Decker

Hannah Decker

Dr. Decker is a scholar of German history. For more than thirty years she has specialized in cultural history with research specialties in the histories of psychoanalysis and psychiatry. Decker received her Ph.D. from Columbia University and had a fellowship in the history of psychiatry at the Cornell Medical School. She has taught at the University of Houston since 1974. She is also the recipient of the University of Houston Research Excellence Award, the University Of Houston Teaching Excellence Award, and the 2005 Teaching Excellence Award in Humanities given by the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences. In 2007, Professor Decker received the Carlson Award from the Institute of the History of Psychiatry at the Cornell Medical College (NYC) for "extraordinary contributions to the history of psychiatry and psychoanalysis."

Dr. Decker has presented papers and commentaries at national conferences such as the American Historical Association, the American Psychoanalytic Association, the American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association and the Southern Historical Association. Decker served as a consultant to the Library of Congress regarding an exhibit on Sigmund Freud and to PBS on a TV series on the thought of C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud. Decker has been the director and chair of the Graduate and Undergraduate Committees. She was also Associate Dean in the College of Humanities, Fine Arts, and Communications for several years.


Dr. Decker teaches a variety of undergraduate courses that cover German History from 1815 to 1970. Professor Decker teaches graduate seminars on Nazi Germany and nineteenth-century European politics, society, and culture and undergraduate classes on nineteenth-and twentieth-century German history, the life and times of Sigmund Freud and the history of psychoanalysis, and Western Civilization from the sixteenth to twentieth centuries. She also conducts one-on-one special problems courses in a wide variety of European history topics. She has a particular interest in teaching the history of ideas and the relationship between science and culture.

Professor Decker uses a variety of teaching techniques so that she can impart to her students an understanding of the complexities and multicausalities that underlie all historical events as well as the lives of historical figures. This is knowledge that all students—majors in history or not—can take away with them to better understand the social and political events that will unfold during their lives. For history majors and graduate students, she has the additional goals of students’ acquisition of knowledge and their learning to approach all information analytically and critically. Decker likes to teach seminars and small lecture classes best because they facilitate discussion and students’ involvement. She has directed and served on many dissertation and thesis committees.

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Research Interests

Decker is the author of two books and more than nineteen scholarly articles. She has done scholarly reviews for journals such as the Journal of Social History, The American Historical Review, The Journal of Modern History, JAMA (The Journal of the American Medical Association), ISIS (Journal of the History of Science Society), and the Bulletin of the History of Medicine. She is currently writing a book on a revolutionary event in American psychiatry: the publication in 1980 of the third Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-III) of the American Psychiatric Association. This manual had a great impact not only on psychiatry but on American society.

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Selected Publications

  • Freud in Germany: Revolution and Reaction in Science, 1893-1907. (International Universities Press, 1977).

  • Freud, Dora, and Vienna 1900 (The Free Press, 1991) paperback edition, 1992.

  • Spanish Edition Freud, Dora y la Viena 1900. (Biblioteca Neuva, 1999).

  • "The Interpretation of Dreams: Early Reception by the Educated German Public," Journal of History of Behavioral Sciences, April, 1975, Vol. 11 (2), pp. 129-141.

  • "The Historical Evolution of Dementia Praecox." In Phenomenology and Treatment of Schizophrenia. New York: Spectrum Publications, 1978, pp. 301-309.

  • "A Tangled Skein: The Freud-Jung Relationship," Essays in the History of Psychiatry. Columbia, SC: Wm. S. Hall Psychiatric Institute, 1980, pp. 103-117.

  • "The Lure of Non-Materialism in Materialist Europe: Investigations of Dissociative Phenomena, 1880-1915," Split Minds/Split Brains: Historical and Current Perspectives. J.M. Quen, (ed.) New York University Press, 1986, pp. 31-62.

  • "What Will Happen If My Zurichers Desert Me?": The Favorable Reception of Psychoanalysis in Switzerland." The Psychiatric Clinics of North America. September 1994, Vol. 17, No. 3, pp. 637-648.

  • "Freud's 'Dora' Case: The Crucible of the Psychoanalytic Concept of Transference," in Michael Roth (ed.), Freud: Culture and Conflict. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1998, pp. 105-114, 243-244.

  • "The Psychiatric Works of Emil Kraepelin: A Many-Faceted Story of Modern Medicine, Journal of the History of Neurosciences. Vol. 13, No. 3, September 2004, pp. 248-276.

  • "How Kraepelinian was Kraepelin? How Kraepelinian were the neo-Kraepelinians?: From Emil Kraepelin to DSM-III." History of Psychiatry, Vol. 18, No. 3, September 2007, pp. 337-360.

  • “Psychoanalysis in Central Europe: The Interplay of Science and Culture,” in Edwin R. Wallace and John Gach (eds.) History of Psychiatry and Medical Psychology. New York: Springer, 2008, pp. 587-628.

  • “A Moment of Crisis in American Psychiatry: The Fight Over the making of DSM-5, 2007-2010, History of Psychiatry (web), April 2010. 

  • “The Past and the Future: What Constitutes a Mental Illness,” Bulletin of the Association for the Advancement of Philosophy and Psychiatry.  Volume 17, No. 2, 2010, pp. 23-26.

  • “The Impact of Emil Kraepelin (1856-1926) and Robert Spitzer (b. 1932) on 20th Century Psychiatry: A Tribute to Robert Spitzer,” History of Psychiatry (web), 2011.

  • “DSM-III as a Weapon against the Anti-Psychiatry Movement,” Philosophy, Ethics, and Humanities in Medicine, Vol. 7, No. 3, January 2012. 

  • The Making of DSM-III: A Diagnostic Manual’s Conquest of American Psychiatry, Oxford University Press.  In press, scheduled to appear in March 2013.

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