Madness and Democracy: The Modern Psychiatric Universe

By Marcel Gauchet; Gladys Swain et al. | Go to book overview

ABSTRACT II

Esquirol's Des Passions capitalizes on the experience its author gained at La Salpêtrière, an insane asylum founded in 1802 by the French government. From its inception, La Salpêtrière aimed at isolating mentally ill patients from society in order to cure them. The idea of curing madness was not entirely new at that time: the asylum at Charenton had been pursuing this goal since 1797. From a humanitarian point of view, Charenton represented a considerable advance over the old Parisian institution of the Hôtel-Dieu, where the insane were imprisoned in gruesome conditions, with no effort made to heal them. Like La Salpêtrière later, Charenton fit well with the French Revolution's ideal of improving the lot of the blind, the deaf, and the mentally ill. Yet Charenton remained a basically archaic institution insofar as it sought to cure illness using exclusively nonmedical means.

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