Madness in Early Modern Europe

A look at the institutions and concepts of mental health care from a historical perspective.

This paper attempts to determine how the concept of and care for madness changed from century to century in Early Modern Europe. The paper discusses what influenced the concept of madness, what was done with mad people, how they were treated, the different meanings and definitions of madness, and the role gender played in the identification and treatment of madness. The resources used for this paper are appended.
“Research is crucial to the advancement of science, be it medical, psychological and, or, any number of the sciences. A look into the past often allows a deeper understanding of the theories, processes and ideologies of the present. Many scholars have provided insight into the institutions and concepts of mental health from a historical perspective, Michel Foucault, Roy Porter and Andrew Skull among them. The care of the mentally ill has evolved from the concept of social control. Where once it was the responsibility of the family and, or, community to control mad or abnormal behavior ; it is now seen as the responsibility of the medical community. Care for the mentally ill was also the responsibility of the family or community, then the religious organization, private asylums and, eventually, the medical profession and hospitalization. During the medieval era, the king was sometimes held responsible for the “lunatic” and his or her family.”