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melanie klein trust

Melanie Klein Trust

Furthering the psychoanalytic theory
and technique of Melanie Klein

1939-44 War and controversy



Early in the year, the Internal Object (I.O.) Group is set up at the suggestion of Eva Rosenfeld and Susan Isaacs, as a regular opportunity for Kleinians to discuss and formulate their ideas for presentation.

On 8th March, the British Psychoanalytical Society celebrates its 25th birthday at the Savoy (taking 1914 rather than 1919 as the date of inception, despite the abortive nature of the first attempt). Virginia and Leonard Woolf are among the guests, and Klein meets them for the first time.

Arthur Klein dies in Sion, Switzerland, at the age of 61.

On 3rd September Britain declares war against Germany.

Klein moves to Cambridge temporarily, one of many fleeing the capital for fear of air raids.

On 23rd September, three weeks after the outbreak of the Second World War, Sigmund Freud dies at the age of 83. He has spent many years suffering with cancer of the jaw.

Klein re-works, 'Mourning and Its Relation to Manic-Depressive States' over the winter, a paper originally given at the 1938 Paris Congress.

(Below) Some rare, silent cine footage shows Melanie Klein in 1939, walking in the garden of her home at Clifton Hill with sculptor Oscar Nemon.

Melanie Klein walking in the garden from Melanie Klein Trust on Vimeo.



Klein’s sister Emilie Pick dies in London in May, of lung cancer. Klein is not with her.

At the end of June Klein leaves London for Pitlochry in Scotland, at the request of 'Dick’s' parents. Meanwhile, in London, the Battle of Britain approaches, making the capital highly dangerous. She returns to London for Christmas, missing her grandson Michael and her work there.

Edward Glover publishes An Investigation of the Technique of Psychoanalysis, a barely disguised attack on Klein and Kleinian thought.


By the new year Klein has four patients in Scotland, Dick and his brother, and two doctors. During her time in Pitlochry she keeps up a regular correspondence with Donald Winnicott, by now a close friend and ally.

At the end of April, Klein starts the analysis of ten-year-old 'Richard,' whose "unusual" set of psychical difficulties proves rich food for thought. She is soon eager to write a book dedicated to this particular case.

At the beginning of September Klein leaves Pitlochry and returns home to London.


The first of the British Society’s Extraordinary Meetings takes place on 25th February, after months and years of increasing discord and infighting among its members. They are heated and often venomously personal battles between the opposing groups in the Society – the Kleinians and Viennese Freudians – and they carry on until June. In meetings Anna Freud and Edward Glover attack Klein’s legitimacy as a psychoanalyst, while Melitta Schmideberg attacks her mother with a seemingly blind rage, more personal than theoretical. It looks as though the Society may not survive this deeply divisive war of ideas and personalities.

The first of the Controversial Discussions is held on 21st October. They are highly charged debates about the conflicting psychoanalytic theories threatening to break the Society down the middle. Klein and Anna Freud are the central opponents in the struggle. During this period Kleinian theory will be criticized vehemently, and even accused of not being psychoanalytic.


Susan Isaacs’ paper, 'The Nature and Function of Phantasy' (later published in Developments in Psychoanalysis) is distributed to members of the Society to be discussed on the 27th January as part of the Controversial Discussions. It is a key paper in the history of psychoanalysis, demonstrating Klein’s concept of infantile phantasy as intimately related to, and sprung from, classical Freudian thought and therefore resolutely psychoanalytic. The paper forms the focus of discussion at every meeting until 19th May.


After a meeting on the 24th January, Edward Glover resigns from the British Society, declaring it no longer 'Freudian,' that is, psychoanalytic.

On 16th February Klein takes part in the Discussions for the first time in person. She delivers the paper forming the focus of the last Controversial Discussion on 1st March, 'The Emotional Life of the Infant.'

Hanna Segal enters analysis with Klein, around the same time as Herbert Rosenfeld. Both Segal and Rosenfeld will go on to develop and expand Kleinian theory, as they push the limits of psychoanalysis in their work with borderline-psychotic and psychotic patients.

Read Klein's typescript for a broadcast on European Radio about the effect of war on children (October 1944)...