Michael MacDonald's assertion that the eighteenth century was a disaster for the insane constitutes many varying opinions. The proliferation of medical discourse concerning the mentally ill increased by the late 1600's and the taboo subject of madness gradually gained popularity in critical medical studies. However, despite the new found attention given to the study of the mentally ill, the approach to which these people were treated was severe, cruel and indicative of the political and religious hierarchies of 18th century society. From the late 1600's well into the 1900's the state of medical profession regarding mental health paved an avenue for the eventual, more humane treatment of the mentally ill and a detachment from the archaic and religiously based doctrine of assessing illness.
[...] He describes being restrained when he thus outrageous at any Time, then would they throw me upon the Bed, and thus put Bolts upon me; and there should I lie in great Pain and Weariness ‘till I could well endure it no longer.” (36). Trosse depicts his captivity as necessary and vital to his healing even though he was physically injured by the restraints: twisted and wrested my Legs in my Fetters with all my Strength I had, enduring great and grievous Pains, and grating away some of the Flesh of my Legs.” (36). [...]
[...] Likely, Christopher Lawrence's article Medicine in the Making of Modern Britain, suggests that the power of subjective condemning and the total license of the hospital director even superseded the doctor's diagnosis. The directors' “interest [was] in representing their institutions as models of benevolence,” not in curing the sick. (22). Cruden extensively notes this contradiction between doctor's appraisal and director's final say citing “Davis . told Wightman, after he went out of the room, that he had not observed any signs of Madness about his Prisoner.” (53). [...]
[...] Foucault's general sentiments of the handling and especially the universality of treatments administered to the mentally ill mirror MacDonald's assessment of 18th century madness that, in fact, it was a disaster. Foucault's main disavowal in the curing of madness in the 18th century seems to lay in disguising the repression of lower classes as moralistically enlightening them in essence, upper crust society enforcing the status quo by means of confinement and forced labor. Even today, authority has a stranglehold on what constitutes morality, and up until the late 1900's the idea that one got sick either because they deserved it or it was a test from God of one's faith was a familiar trope. [...]
[...] Coming in the midst of the Enlightenment, the Parisian government sought to establish several “hopitaux generaux” all across France. (Foucault, 42). Like a plague, similar institutions sprang up all over the face of Europe, especially in Germany and England. These institutions says Foucault, nothing to do with any medical concept” but an instance . of the monarchical and bourgeois order being organized in France.” (40). the authority of these places however, were sanctioned by government appointed directors and the state had little interest in what went on within the walls of asylums. [...]
[...] Though the 18th century did signify a time of horrific methodology in the treatment of the mentally ill, it did however, give rise to increasing studies of the insane. In Elaine Scarry's book The Body in Pain she speaks of relative ease or difficulty with which any given phenomenon can be verbally represented . influences the ease or difficulty with which that phenomenon comes to be politically represented.” (12). When taken in the context of the insanity in the 18th century, one can see that despite the inhumanity suffered upon the insane, their torment was not in vain. [...]
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