Inebriety, doctors, and the state. Alcoholism treatment institutions before 1940

Recent Dev Alcohol. 1987;5:135-74.


This chapter recounts what is known about the international development of treatment institutions for inebriates in the century before 1940. It begins with the origins of treatment in the self-help temperance movement of the 1830s and 1840s and the founding of the first inebriate homes, tracing in the United States the transformation of these small, private, spiritually inclined programs into the medically dominated, quasipublic inebriate asylums of the late 19th century. A similar institutional development occurred in other English-speaking countries. Both in the United States and Britain, these institutions almost disappeared by the end of the First World War. In Germany and Switzerland, a three-tier system of community advice bureaus, inpatient sanatoria, and work camps developed at the turn of the century; an analogous system, with temperance boards at the community level, developed in Nordic countries between 1912 and 1940. The societal emphasis on the problem of impoverished inebriates often turned inebriate treatment efforts in the direction of coercive and custodial handling.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Alcoholism / history*
  • England
  • Germany
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • Hospitals, Special / history*
  • Humans
  • Residential Facilities*
  • Scandinavian and Nordic Countries
  • Switzerland
  • Temperance / history*
  • United States