The rise and decline of the American asylum movement in the 19th century

J Psychol. 1988 Sep;122(5):471-86. doi: 10.1080/00223980.1988.10542952.


This paper traces the history of the American public asylum from the 1840s through the late 19th century. The focus is on social factors that contributed to the establishment of public institutions at the urging of reformers, the attempts to model them on the architecture and "moral treatment" offered by the best private institutions, the crowding of the asylums, the growing criticism aimed at the asylums and their superintendents, and the effects of calls for other approaches and for scientific management. Knowledge of the asylum's history may be useful today, as we stand at the crossroads in the treatment of the mentally ill.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • History, 19th Century
  • Hospitals, Psychiatric / history*
  • Hospitals, State / history
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / history
  • Social Change
  • United States