Advert for a lecture series by Klein in 1939
Advert for three lectures by Klein on ‘Psychoanalysis and Normal Development’, delivered in May 1939.

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 Kleinian analysts to discuss and formulate their ideas for presentation.

On 8th March, the British Psychoanalytical Society celebrates its 25th birthday at the Savoy Hotel. Virginia and Leonard Woolf are among the guests.

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

On 3rd September 1939, Britain declares war against Germany. Klein moves temporarily to Cambridge, one of many people 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 reworks, ‘Mourning and Its Relation to Manic-Depressive States’ over the winter, a paper originally given at the 1938 Paris Congress.

Watch a rare fragment of silent footage showing Melanie Klein in 1939, walking in the garden of her home at Clifton Hill with sculptor Oscar Nemon.


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

At the end of June, Klein leaves London for Pitlochry in Scotland. She has been encouraged to go by the parents of ‘Dick’, a patient she treated as a small child more than a decade ago. Meanwhile, in London, the Battle of Britain approaches, making the capital very dangerous. She returns to London for Christmas, missing her grandson Michael and her work there.

Photograph of Melanie Klein's temporary home in Pitlochry, Scotland
Ashbank, Melanie Klein’s temporary home in Pitlochry, Scotland.

Edward Glover publishes An Investigation of the Technique of Psychoanalysis, a thinly veiled attack on Klein and Kleinian ideas.


By the new year Klein has four patients in Scotland: ‘Dick’, his brother, and two doctors. During her stay in Pitlochry, she keeps up a regular correspondence with Donald Winnicott, by now a close friend and ally, despite certain theoretical differences between them.

At the end of April, she begins 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 focusing on this case.

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


While war continues to rage around the world, the first of the British Society’s ‘Extraordinary Meetings’ takes place on 25th February, after years of increasing discord and infighting among its members.

Drawing by ‘Richard’, one of Klein’s child patients in 1941.

The meetings consist of heated – and often venomously personal – battles between the opposing groups in the Society: the Kleinians and Viennese Freudians. They continue until June. Anna Freud and Edward Glover attack Klein’s legitimacy as a psychoanalyst, while Melitta Schmideberg attacks her mother with a rage that seems at times more personal than theoretical. It looks as though the Society may not survive this deeply divisive war of ideas and personalities.

Following on from the Extraordinary Meetings, the first of the ‘Controversial Discussions’ is held on 21st October. They are also 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 criticised 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.

Photograph of Melanie Klein in 1944
Melanie Klein in 1944, photographed by Bertl Sachsel.


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 therapeutic reach and conceptual scope of psychoanalysis in their work with borderline-psychotic and psychotic patients.