Thomas Library

Honors Thesis Archive

Author Sarah McCance
Title Madmen and Poor Wretches: Changing Perceptions of Madness in Early Nineteenth-Century London
Department History
Year 2004
Honors University Honors
Full Text View Thesis (177 KB)
Abstract This essay seeks to examine the increasingly complex perceptions of insanity that developed in nineteenth-century London and the ways in which these views of madness influenced and were influenced by doctors, patients, and the public. Patient biographies and excerpts from medical writings are set against the background of larger movements in the care of the insane. Notable issues include the physical/psychological basis of madness, legal definitions of insanity, the rise and fall of moral management, class/gender biases in the perception of patients, and societal motivations for the establishment of the institutional system, with reference to the Foucauldian model. A literary approach is used to explore implied meanings in written sources in an attempt to offer a more nuanced picture of doctor-patient relations and their interaction with larger societal trends at a crucial developmental period for psychiatric theory and practice.

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