Moral Insanity and psychological disorder: the hybrid roots of Psychiatry


Jones, D. 2017. Moral Insanity and psychological disorder: the hybrid roots of Psychiatry. History of Psychiatry. 28 (3), pp. 263-279.
AuthorsJones, D.

This paper traces the significance of the diagnosis of ‘moral insanity’ (and the related the diagnoses of ‘monomania’ and ‘manie sans delire’) to the development of psychiatry as a profession in the 19th century. The pioneers of psychiatric thought were motivated to explore such diagnoses because they promised public recognition in the high status surroundings of the criminal court. Some success was achieved in presenting a form of expertise that centred on the ability of the experts to detect quite subtle, ‘psychological’ forms of dangerous madness within the minds of offenders in France and more extensively in England. Significant backlash in the press against these new ideas pushed the profession away from such psychological exploration and back towards its medical roots that located criminal insanity simply within the organic constitution of its sufferers.

JournalHistory of Psychiatry
Journal citation28 (3), pp. 263-279
PublisherSAGE Publications
Accepted author manuscript
Publisher's version
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
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Publication dates
Online10 Apr 2017
Publication process dates
Deposited20 Jul 2016
Accepted08 Jul 2016
Accepted08 Jul 2016
FunderEconomic and Social Research Council
Economic and Social Research Council
Copyright informationJones, David W., Moral Insanity and psychological disorder: the hybrid roots of Psychiatry, History of Psychiatry, 28(3): Copyright © 2017 The author. Reprinted by permission of SAGE Publications.
LicenseCC BY 4.0
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