User:Moswento/Mind-Forg'd Manacles

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Mind-Forg'd Manacles: A History of Madness in England from the Restoration to the Regency is a non-fiction work by historian Roy Porter, covering psychiatry [and popular attitudes towards insanity?] in 18th-century England.

Background and publication[edit]

Covers "long eighteenth century", from 1660 to 1800.[1]

Title from the second stanza of William Blake's poem "London". Porter: to show how the society "first created instruments of cultural torture...which drove some out of their minds, and then additionally frequently stigmatized the mad as evil and dangerous". [1]


Porter argues against Michel Foucault's idea of the "Great Confinement" - a depiction of "the rise of psychiatry as a conspiracy of the capitalist ruling classes".[2] The idea, expressed in his 1961 Folie et Déraison that "mad and bad [were] lumped together in a bourgeois plot to rid the streets of lowlife considered to be no better than animals".[1] In England, demonstrates Porter, comparatively few people were confined to asylums prior to 1845, and a range of treatments were offered.[1]

Argues that asylums originated with the 18th-century commercial revolution - earliest asylums were private institutions serving paying customers, the "lunatic relations of the propertied elite". [2]

Porter also emphasises "evidence of humane conditions and sincere efforts to restore the insane to health and happiness", which he argues have been unfairly overlooked by other historians.[2]

Also argues that the history of the treatment of madness in the 18th century was marked by a growing secularisation.[2] Ideas about the cause of insanity moved from demon possession to unbalanced "humours" to "a state of error that experience could correct" [reviewer]. This prepared the ground for the development of the field of psychiatry.[1]


Michael Macdonald, American Historical Review - "delightful reading", "one of the few historians writing today whom one can justly call a man of letters". However, he was critical of some of Porter's research, arguing that he had neglected unpublished manuscript sources, and had not sufficiently explored the actions of institutions such as asylums and the Court of Chancery. Correct about failings of previous studies of madness, but fails to offer a robust alternative.[2]



  1. ^ a b c d (Unsigned) (1988). "Mind-Forg'd Manacles (review)". The Wilson Quarterly. 12 (3): 145. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Macdonald, Michael (1990). "Mind-Forg'd Manacles (review)". The American Historical Review. 95 (1): 161–162. 
  3. ^ Greene, Sheila (1990). "Mind-Forg'd Manacles (review)". Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. 507: 156–157. 
  4. ^ Guerrini, Anita (1990). "Mind-Forg'd Manacles (review)". Albion: A Quarterly Journal Concerned with British Studies. 22 (3): 515–517. 
  5. ^ DePorte, Michael (1989). "Mind-Forg'd Manacles (review)". Eighteenth-Century Studies. 22 (4): 618–621. 
  6. ^ Walton, John K. (1989). "Mind-Forg'd Manacles (review)". Isis. 80 (2): 318–319.