Peter Sedgwick was born in 1934 and brought up in Liverpool, where he was deeply affected by what he described as ‘a series of catastrophic events in my family home’ which gave him a lasting interest in mental health. His great talents were recognised and he gained a scholarship to Balliol College Oxford where he read classics and got an outstanding First. At that time he was a Christian, an Anglican, but there he became a communist, leaving the Communist Party in 1956 with other members of the early New Left of which he was a notable figure. He then joined the Socialist Review Group later to become the International Socialists, led by Tony Cliff (Ygael Gluckstein), a tendency deriving from Trotskyism which believed the Soviet Union was “state capitalist”. He was not merely an outstanding intellectual, who wrote brilliantly for the group’s press, but involved himself deeply in all the drudgery and activities of the rank rank-and and-file members. The selection here gives an idea of his breadth and political interests. He was always a free spirit and was bitterly opposed to the International Socialism group renaming itself as a the Socialist Workers Party in 1976 refusing to join the new organisation while always remaining a man dedicated to the far left. He was editing the works of Victor Serge at the time of his death. Though he was regarded by many as somewhat anarchistic he was violently opposed to what he thought were the "trendy" and ridiculous theories of psychology current at the time and wrote extensively and sharply on these questions as well as more broadly political ones. His judgements in these areas would be considered today as fairly mainstream and thoroughly scientific.
Professionally, he was briefly a psychologist at Liverpool University but when thrown out on political activist grounds he worked in turn as a school teacher, an educational psychologist, a tutor at a psychiatric prison and research psychologist at an Oxford hospital studying brain-damaged patients. He then took up a politics lectureship at York University, spent a year in New York, and, finally, held a lectureship in both politics and psychiatry at Leeds University from 1974 until his tragic death in 1983.
Last updated on 27.11.2004