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I'm interested in the impact of utilitarianism upon English psychiatric care by way of the philosophy's influence on social reformers. More tenuously, I want to know whether and in what ways utilitarianism shaped theoretical writings on the nosology/aetiology of madness within the second half of the 18th century and the first half of the 19th amongst physicians.

  • I removed a paragraph from this question; I think the issues raised in that paragraph deserve a real discussion on meta.history.stackexchange. I don't have access to that site right now; could someone link this question to the appropriate reference question on meta, and potentially open a question on castigation & civility. (once the link & question are on meta, this comment will be obsolete.) – Mark C. Wallace Jan 22 '15 at 14:33
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    Yes I think every question I've asked has elicited a meta-discussion on the legitimacy of reference questions, even though this forms the backbone of history as a discipline, and can't easily (like many other questions on here) be answered by a quick internet search or be looked up in a book, seeing as not knowing about which books define the field is initially what prompts the question. – user6800 Jan 22 '15 at 21:22
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    We have changed the guidelines in response to the points you have made ; I appreciate your participation and your patience – Mark C. Wallace Jan 22 '15 at 21:24
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    Thanks, do you have a link for the changed guidelines? – user6800 Jan 23 '15 at 10:34
  • Improvements are suggested here, but the help center does not appear to be updated yet. Great development if it ends up being updated meta.history.stackexchange.com/questions/1993/… – Eivind Dahl Jan 23 '15 at 20:03
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I've done research in this field, and believe the simple answer is that utilitarian social policy in eC19 moved in the opposite direction from developments in clinical psychology at the same time.

For example, the utilitarian creation of the New Poor Law in 1834 made workhouses more austere, with reduced diets and families separated by sex, not to mention adding the useless labor of the treadmill and similar innovations.

At the same time, clinical mental medicine was moving toward more compassionate care of the insane, with asylums modeled on domestic life and an elimination of physical restraints. In Britain, this began in 1796 with the introduction of moral therapy in the York Retreat founded by the Quaker William Tuke. In 1839, non-restraint moved into the first large county asylum under the directorship of John Conolly, at the Middlesex County Lunatic Asylum at Hanwell.

On developments in medical care of the insane during this period, see the following for a good starting point:

Andrew Scull, Charlotte MacKenzie, and Nicholas Hervey, Masters of Bedlam. The Transformation of the Mad-Doctoring Trade, Princeton University Press, 1996.

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