Purpose of review: The article reviews publications on the history of psychiatric patients and symptoms between April 2002 and May 2003. Recent findings: Findings are grouped under the following headings: concepts and general themes; countries and institutions; nursing; clinicians and therapies; and technology. Summary: The history of psychiatry is a rapidly expanding field of investigation. This is reflected by the rich diversity of subjects, methodologies and academic background of researchers in this field. This review highlights some of the newer themes and the ways in which interdisciplinary research leads to new approaches. Several of the most important publications in the period under discussion are focused on the nature and boundaries of psychiatry and on the identity of the psychiatrist as a professional. More than in previous periods the moral and politicial dimensions of this issue were the subject of discussion.