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June 1966

Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason.

Arch Intern Med. 1966;117(6):840-841. doi:10.1001/archinte.1966.03870120104025

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Michel Foucault takes the reader on a serendipitous journey in tracing the history of madness from the 16th to the 18th centuries. Utilizing original documents, the author recreates the mood, the place, and the proper perspective in the history of madness.

Madness or folly is viewed as part of the human condition and to be examined and illuminated through one of its many facets. At the end of the Middle Ages madness was seen either as a tragic or comic phenomenon. The Renaissance, with Erasmus' Praise of Folly, demonstrated how imagination and its derivatives were to thinkers of that day. The French Revolution introduced the so-called medical approach. Madness is a ubiquitous phenomenon that has common roots not only in medicine but in poetry and tragedy. Shakespeare brilliantly describes psychological phenomena with even greater clarity than Tuke or Wills.

The author weaves a fascinating history showing the changing pattern of

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