The Evolution of Attitudes Towards Mental Illness In Pre-Industrial England

The Evolution of Attitudes Towards Mental Illness In Pre-Industrial England

By Jeremy Narby

Journal of Orthomolecular Psychiatry, Vol. 11, No.2 (1982)

Introduction: Men ought to know that from the brain and from the brain only, arise our pleasures, joys, laughter and jests, as well as our sorrows, pain, grief and tears; that through it we think, hear, see and distinguish the ugly from the beautiful, the bad from the good, the pleasant from the unpleasant. . .it is the brain which makes us mad or delirious; inspires us with dread and fear, whether by night or day; brings sleeplessness, mistakes, anxieties, absentmindedness, acts that are contrary to our normal habits. These things that we suffer all come from the brain, including madness. Hippocrates, on the Sacred Disease, XVII.

I first became interested in the history of mental illness after reading Michel Foucault’s Madness and Civilization. His ideas depart from the conventional train of thought in this area of study and their originality makes them very attractive; it became evident that the only rational way to evaluate his arguments, was to examine them more deeply. This examination is the starting point of this essay. It is limited geographically to England in order to show how his theories, which are conceived on a European scale, could function, if at all, at a national and hopefully more factual level.

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