Managing Lunatics within the Domestic Sphere

Akihito Suzuki

in Madness at Home

Published by University of California Press

Published in print March 2006 | ISBN: 9780520245808
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520932210 | DOI:
Managing Lunatics within the Domestic Sphere

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  • Modern History (1700 to 1945)


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This chapter moves away from dealing with medical practitioners to illuminate the family's own understanding of and ways of coping with the family member's lunacy. It aims to demonstrate the existence of “domestic psychiatry,” to examine its internal characteristics, and to investigate its social and cultural basis. The chapter first considers the letters of one London banker, in which his responses to the mental disease of his mother in 1816 were recorded in exceptional detail and with remarkable candidness. Then it contextualizes this evidence, mainly using records from commission of lunacy cases. The chapter also investigates the social and cultural background of domestic psychiatry, linking it to the development of the ideal of domesticity in England in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Here, it relies on recent works on the history of upper- and middle-class families in Britain by Leonore Davidoff, Catherine Hall, Amanda Vickery, and others. The chapter concludes by providing a revisionist assessment of the rise of moral treatment, the cornerstone of nineteenth-century psychiatry.

Keywords: family; lunacy; family members; domestic psychiatry; moral treatment; Leonore Davidoff; Catherine Hall; Amanda Vickery

Chapter.  11970 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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