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Masters of Bedlam

Masters of Bedlam: The Transformation of the Mad-Doctoring Trade

Andrew Scull
Charlotte MacKenzie
Nicholas Hervey
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  • Book Info
    Masters of Bedlam
    Book Description:

    Through an examination of the fascinating lives and careers of a series of nineteenth-century "mad-doctors,"Masters of Bedlamprovides a unique perspective on the creation of the modern profession of psychiatry, taking us from the secret and shady practices of the trade in lunacy, through the utopian expectations that were aroused by the lunacy reform movement, to the dismal realities of the barracks-asylums--those Victorian museums of madness within which most nineteenth-century alienists found themselves compelled to practice. Across a century that spans the period from an unreformed Bedlam to the construction of a post-Darwinian bio-psychiatry centered on the new Maudsley Hospital, from a therapeutics of bleeding, purging, and close confinement through the era of moral treatment and nonrestraint to a fin-de-siécle degenerationism and despair, men claiming expertise in the treatment of mental disorder sought to construct a collective identity as trustworthy and scientifically qualified professionals. This fascinating series of biographies answers the question: How successful were they in creating such a new identity?.

    Drawing on an extensive array of sources, the authors vividly re-create the often colorful and always eventful lives of these seven "masters of bedlam." Sensitive to the idiosyncrasies and peculiarities of each man's personal biography, the authors replace hagiographical ac-counts of the great men who founded modern psychiatry with fully rounded portraits of their struggles and successes, their achievements and limitations. In the processMasters of Bedlamprovides an extremely subtle and nuanced portrait of the efforts of successive generations of alienists to carve out a popular and scientific respect for their specialty, and reminds us repeatedly of the complexities of nineteenth-century developments in the field of psychiatry.

    Originally published in 1998.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6440-9
    Subjects: Psychology

Table of Contents

    (pp. 3-9)

    AS IS by now generally acknowledged, in Britain the massive internment of the mad in what were asserted to be therapeutic institutions is essentially a nineteenth-century phenomenon ¹ Though fugitive references to madhouses can be traced back to the seventeenth century, and perhaps before, and though a recognizable “trade in lunacy” clearly became established over the course of the eighteenth century, only after 1800 did systematic provision begin to be made for segregating the insane into specialized institutions The birth of the asylum in its turn was intimately bound up with the emergence and consolidation of a newly self-conscious group...

    (pp. 10-47)

    JOHN HASLAM’S career began and ended in obscurity We know very little indeed of the circumstances of his birth and upbringing, and at his death in 1844, his estate amounted to less than £100 ¹ His passing merited only a one-paragraph obituary in theLancet—a cursory and misleading eulogy that managed to omit virtually everything of significance about his life and accomplishments ² Yet during the first decade and a half of the nineteenth century, Haslam’s caustic pen, his skills as an observer and commentator on madness, and his position as the resident apothecary at the most famous English...

  3. Chapter Three A BRILLIANT CAREER? JOHN CONOLLY (1794–1866)
    (pp. 48-83)

    JOHN CONOLLY’S place in the pantheon of heroes of English psychiatric history seems secure Contemporaries likened his achievement in introducing nonrestraint in the treatment of the insane paupers at Hanwell Lunatic Asylum to Howard’s labours in the cause of penal reform and Clarkson’s role in the abolition of slavery¹ Lord Shaftesbury, for forty years the chairman of the English Lunacy Commissioners and chief spokesman for the lunacy reform movement, referred to Conolly’s work as “the greatest triumph of skill and humanity that the world ever knew”² And the doyens of late nineteenth-century medicine were only marginally less hyperbolic for Sir...

  4. Chapter Four THE ALIENIST AS PROPAGANDIST: W.A.F BROWNE (1805–1885)
    (pp. 84-122)

    BETWEEN THE publication of his first and only book in 1837 and his retirement from his post as the first Scottish Lunacy Commissioner in 1870, William Alexander Francis Browne occupied a position among Scottish alienists that was every bit as dominant as that of his English counterpart, John Conolly, and the parallels between the two men’s lives and careers present some intriguing points of comparison In the middle years of the nineteenth century, Browne’s reputation extended south of the border, to the Continent, and even to North America, and derived principally, though not exclusively, from the impact of his book—...

    (pp. 123-160)

    IF ALEXANDER MORISON is remembered at all, it is usually as the author ofThe Physiognomy of the Insaneand as the man who first delivered a coherent series of lectures on mental diseases to doctors ¹ However, in the same breath, this achievement is generally bracketed with John Conolly’s more “successful” lectures at Hanwell The fact that Conolly delivered a very ordinary course of lectures at London University is conveniently forgotten Similarly Conolly’s series of articles on “The Physiognomy of the Insane” in theMedical Times and Gazetteduring 1858 have created a comparison that has proved unfavourable to...

    (pp. 161-186)

    SAMUEL GASKELL published virtually nothing of any significance in the course of a professional career that spanned four decades a handful of annual asylum reports that had an extremely limited circulation,¹ a brief communication for a lay audience on the possibility of educating the “idiotic”,² and a single article in a professional journal on the need to make better provision for the mentally disordered middle classes ³ Nor was he responsible for any important innovations in the therapeutics of insanity or the care of the mad Though a talented asylum administrator, his efforts in this sphere were largely derivative, closely...

    (pp. 187-225)

    FEW BRITISH ALIENISTS of the nineteenth century could match the contributions Sir John Charles Bucknill made to the development and consolidation of the new profession of psychiatry in the course of his lifetime During the first half of Victoria’s reign, he became one of the most energetic and effective spokesmen for alienists’ collective interests, did much to codify and present to a wider public the knowledge they claimed to possess, and helped to transform a previously almost moribund professional organization into a vehicle for the creation of a collective identity by unifying what might otherwise have remained an internally divided...

    (pp. 226-267)

    IF JOHN HASLAM was perhaps the most famous (or infamous) mad-doctor of the early nineteenth century, and John Conolly the best-known alienist of the optimistic mid-Victorian era, Conolly’s son-in-law, Henry Maudsley, must surely be reckoned the dominant medico-psychological specialist of the last third of the century Maudsley’s materialism and his positivism, his determinism and his Lamarckian evolutionism, not to mention his profound pessimism, were more thoroughgoing and unabashed than can be found among most of his fellow alienists, but in all these respects late Victorian medico-psychological theorizing is nonetheless indelibly marked by his influence Not that exerting a profound influence...

  9. Chapter Nine CONCLUSION
    (pp. 268-274)

    ADDRESSING HIS colleagues in 1857 as the newly elected president of the Association of Medical Officers of Asylums and Hospitals for the Insane, Forbes Winslow was in a characteristically ebullient mood To hear him tell it, alienists were a revered and near saintly fraternity

    How noble is the study in which we are engagedꞋ how important the duties which devolve upon usꞋ how solemnly responsible is our positionꞋ Is it possible to exaggerate or over-estimate our character, influence, importance and dignity?¹

    Alienists were, on his account, “a body of men engaged in a holy and sacred office”—so much so...