Scope and content
┆Oral history interview with Harold Bridger
**Name****:** Harold Bridger
**Biographical summary:** Harold Bridger grew up in London, completed a mathematics degree at University College London and started his career in Coventry as a mathematics teacher. During the war he served with the War Office Selection Boards and was subsequently involved in the Second Northfield Experiments, alongside psychoanalysts and consultants such as Wilfred Bion, S.H Foulkes and Tom Main. After the war Bridger became one of the twelve founding members of the Tavistock Institute and began a career as a psychoanalyst and organisational consultant. Bridger’s work largely related to group and working dynamics. He contributed systems and theories such as the ‘double task’ and the 'working conference' approach to a range of commercial organisations.
**Interviewer****:** Craig Fees
**Brief summary of interview****:** The interview begins with Bridger discussing the Peckham Experiment that took place before the Second World War. The interview then moves into discussion of Bridger’s personal history. Bridger mentions his family, his upbringing in Notting Hill, his schooling and first career as a mathematics teacher at the Bablake School in Coventry. In recounting these experiences Bridger frames a number of interesting stories to reference group dynamics, therapeutic communities, the Northfield Experiments, his later work as a psychoanalyst and other relevant people such as Anna Freud, Melanie Klein Wilfred Bion etc. The interview then moves into a discussion on Bridger’s military history. During school Bridger was a cadet in the Cadet Corps and during his teaching years he was a territorial in the Warwickshire Regiment. He recounts a particularly interesting story of taking a group of students to Nazi Germany in 1938 and what impact this had on him. Bridger then moves on to talk about his experiences during the Second World War, his experience of being in charge of the searchlights during the Coventry raids and then he moves into discussing his role on the War Office Selection Boards. This leads to a discussion of Bridger’s relationship with Wilfred Bion and John Rickman and then his introduction and involvement in the ‘second’ Northfield Experiment. Bridger talks about his introduction to the Northfield Hospital after Bion’s departure and how he had gone on trips to number of other hospitals, including Mill Hill, to understand what the role would entail. He discusses that he wanted to integrate the training wing with the rest of the hospital. He suggested working using a ‘project method’ to create an external or ‘civilian’ like social system for the internal hospital and in turn he comes up with the ‘hospital club.’ This first section of the interview ends discussing how he had created an open system in the hospital and an example of this was the creation of a Newspaper run by the patients titled ‘The Mercury.**’**
The second stage of the interviews begins discussing Bridger’s experience of community in a war battery. This leads to Bridger commenting on informal systems within formal systems and his ‘double task’ approach theory. He also mentions the international courses he has conducted on the double task approach and group dynamics. The interview then moves into discussing Bridger’s teachers and professional acquaintances following the Northfield Experiment, including Winnicott, Paula Heymann, John Rickman, Melanie Klein and Anna Freud. Bridger’s comments on the reluctance of Foulkes to present a realistic picture of the conditions in Northfield and comments on Bion’s claimed of the invention of the therapeutic community. Bridger closes the interview by discussing in a relatively complex way Winnicott’s theory of the transitional object, using examples to explain what defines the transitional object.
**Date of recording****:** 30 October 1996
**Recording length****:** 1:23:12, 22:59