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The closing decades of the twentieth century brought a rising and sustained critique of the welfare institutions of the modern state – one largely left-wing in origins but increasingly taken over and voiced by the radical right. Professions which professed to be ‘enabling’ were, claimed a rising chorus of critics, ‘disabling’. Social services which presented themselves as benign were, in reality, ‘insidious’, serving the interests of providers not consumers, promoting professional dominance, policing deviance and intensifying the social control required to ensure the smooth running of multinational capitalist corporations – or, in the right-wing version, such institutions were wasting tax-payers' money on scroungers and so encouraging malingering.
Unsurprisingly, such political critiques of ‘welfarism’ (in its widest sense) spawned histories of their own. Replacing various kinds of Fabian, ‘Whig’ or celebratory historical interpretations which had treated the emergence of the ‘caring professions’ and social-security institutions as beneficial and progressive – as shifts from neglect to administrative attention, from cruelty to care, and from ignorance to expertise – a new brand of studies took altogether a more negative or jaundiced view of such social institutions and policies, and sought to blow their benevolent ideological cover.
In no field were the new and critical histories more critical, indeed more indignantly impassioned, than the history of psychiatry. Traditional ‘in-house’ and Whig histories of the care of the insane had never been particularly triumphalist – after all, psychiatry had always been a house divided against itself, uneasy in its stance towards both the public and the medical profession at large, and aware of its embarrassing want of ‘magic bullets’.
The rise of the asylum constitutes one of the most profound, and controversial, events in the history of medicine. Academics around the world have begun to direct their attention to the origins of the confinement of those deemed 'insane', exploring patient records in an attempt to understand the rise of the asylum within the wider context of social and economic change of nations undergoing modernisation. Originally published in 2003, this edited volume brings together thirteen original research papers to answer key questions in the history of asylums. What forces led to the emergence of mental hospitals in different national contexts? To what extent did patient populations vary in terms of their psychiatric profile and socio-economic background? What was the role of families, communities and the medical profession in the confinement process? This volume therefore represents a landmark study in the history of psychiatry by examining asylum confinement in a global context.
This volume offers to general and specialist readers alike the fullest and most complete survey of the development of science in the eighteenth century, exploring the implications of the 'scientific revolution' of the previous century and the major new growth-points, particularly in the experimental sciences. It is designed to be read as both a narrative and an interpretation, and also used as a work of reference. While prime attention is paid to western science, space is also given to science in traditional cultures and colonial science. The coverage strikes a balance between analysis of the cognitive dimension of science itself and interpretation of its wider social, economic and cultural significance. The contributors, world leaders in their respective specialities, engage with current historiographical and methodological controversies and strike out on positions of their own.
“Was ist Aufklärung?” asked Immanuel Kant in 1784, and the issue has remained hotly debated ever since. Not surprisingly, therefore, if we now pose the further question “What was Enlightenment science?” the uncertainties are just as great – but here the controversies assume a different air.
Studies of the Enlightenment proper paint the Age of Reason in dramatic hues and reflect partisan viewpoints: some praise it as the seedbed of modern liberty, others condemn it as the poisoned spring of authoritarianism and alienation. Eighteenth-century science, by contrast, has typically been portrayed in more subdued tones. To most historians it lacks the heroic quality of what came before – the martyrdom of Bruno, Galileo’s titanic clash with the Vatican, the “new astronomy” and “new philosophy” of the “scientific revolution,” the sublime genius of a Descartes, Newton, or Leibniz. After that age of heroes, the eighteenth century has been chid for being dull, a trough between the peaks of the “first” and the “second” scientific revolution, a lull before the storm of the Darwin debate and the astounding breakthroughs of nineteenth-century physics. At best, dwarves were perched on giants’ shoulders. “The first half of the eighteenth century was a singularly bleak period in the history of scientific thought,” judged Stephen Mason; the age was marked, thought H. T. Pledge, by “an element of dullness,” due in part to its “too ambitious schemes” and its “obstructive crust of elaboration and formality.”
THIS new millennium year has led historians to address moments in the past which represent epochs in human affairs. The Enlightenment comprised such a turning-point, since it secularised the world-view and trained eyes and attention towards the future. British thinkers played an influential part in this intellectual revolution – though, as I have maintained in a recent book,Enlightenment: Britain and the Creation of the Modern World(2000), that is a contribution widely ignored or played down, by contrast to that of France. In that book I tried to explain that neglect, and I shall not bore you by repeating myself now. Rather my aim this evening is to set before you some key innovations in theories and thinking which emerged from eighteenth-century Britain, in particular ones specially pertinent to Sir Thomas Gresham and his College, and to the Royal Historical Society. I shall be focusing, in other words, on enlightened ideas about wealth and economics, science and history.