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August 28, 1972

The Trade in Lunacy: A Study of Private Mad-houses in England in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries

JAMA. 1972;221(9):1057. doi:10.1001/jama.1972.03200220087031

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If you have read much material of early 20th century English literature, you have probably read of people being improperly confined and mistreated in private madhouses. If you have read much psychiatric history you have probably read of the great reforms instituted by the Tukes at the York Retreat and the achievements of "moral treatment." Apart from these two areas, relatively little has been written about the English private asylums of the 18th and 19th centuries.

Now Parry-Jones has made a careful investigation of the history of these institutions in provincial England and Wales, especially during the period 1775 to 1857. He has used the extensive records—approximately 3,500 documents—of two such houses, Hook Norton and Witney, both in Oxfordshire, as much manuscript as he could obtain on other asylums, as well as parliamentary reports, books, pamphlets, and articles. He shows that there were indeed abuses but that the majority of