Alienists, Neurologists, and Nerve-Doctors

Janet Oppenheim

in “Shattered Nerves”

Published in print July 1991 | ISBN: 9780195057812
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199854394 | DOI:
Alienists, Neurologists, and Nerve-Doctors

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This chapter describes the framework within which British psychiatry took shape during the 19th century, which shared the weaknesses of the medical profession as a whole, but few of the strengths. Until the 1840s, in fact, mad-doctors were saddled with a number of particularly severe disabilities in their efforts to achieve professional recognition. Of these, the gravest was public uncertainty whether madness was really a medical problem at all, best treated by trained medical practitioners. The very origins of the psychiatric specialty within British medicine could be traced to the 18th-century competition between medical men and lay proprietors for control of “the trade in lunacy”—the establishment and management of private madhouses, which could prove profitable enterprises.

Keywords: alienists; neurologists; nerve-doctors; general practitioner; madness; mad-doctors

Chapter.  21325 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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