The asylum, hospital, and clinic

Authored by: Andrew Scull

The Routledge History of Madness and Mental Health

Print publication date:  April  2017
Online publication date:  April  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138781603
eBook ISBN: 9781315202211
Adobe ISBN: 9781351784399

10.4324/9781315202211.ch5

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Abstract

The asylum, an institutional space devoted exclusively to the management of the mad, has in some respects a much longer history than is commonly realized. Hospitals for the sick and infirm had been established in the Byzantine empire in the fifth century ce, quite soon after the collapse of the Roman empire in the West. Usually charitable enterprises, hospitals spread into the Near East as Christian foundations well before the rise of Islam. In the years after the Prophet’s death in 632, however, Arabs rapidly expanded the Islamic world, till by 750 it stretched from northern India all across north Africa and encompassed most of Spain. Under Islamic rule, hospitals proliferated from the late eighth century onwards, till by the late twelfth century, no large Islamic town was without its hospital. Like Christianity, Islam proclaimed the obligations of the rich to the poor, and Muslims could certainly not be seen to be less charitable than their Christian counterparts. Among those for whom these hospitals made specific provision were the insane, and given the special needs of those who had lost their senses, and the difficulty of coping with them in an institution also attempting to cope with physical illness, it was not uncommon to have the mad removed to a separate establishment. 1

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