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Houghton Library Blog 2013-10-08
Description of the Retreat, an institution near York, for insane persons of the Society of Friends is a volume by Samuel Tuke who was a Quaker and mental-health reformer in early 19th-century England. Tuke believed in this new concept of moral treatement of the insane in which the treatment focused on rewarding good behavior. The text is quite fascinating and touches on information about what types of rooms patients had, their medical treatments and even their diet.
They abscribed to the theory that a full belly can quiet those that have mania and trouble sleeping at night. They were also looking for ways to have patients safely use a knife and fork instead of being forced to eat with a spoon.
The subject of cold versus warm baths is also examined in length by Tuke. He states that patients that suffer from melancholia and were treated with a warm bath have an unusually high recovery rate. Unfortunately a warm bath only seems to aggravate those with mania. Cold baths are said to be unfavorable in treating either melancholia or mania, which is quite a departure for the norms of the time. Tuke also wrote Practical hints on the construction and economy of pauper lunatic asylums; including instructions to the architects who offered plans for the Wakefield Asylum which can be found at the Houghton Library.
To learn more about the historical treatment of the insane look to Description of the Retreat, an institution near York, for insane persons of the Society of Friends : containing an account of its origin and progress, the modes of treatment, and a statement of cases / by Samuel Tuke ; with an elevation and plans of the building. York, Printed for W. Alexander, and sold by him; sold also by M.M. and E. Webb, Bristol; and by Darton, Harvey and Co., William Phillips, and W. Darton, London, 1813 RC450.E3 T812 1813 at the Countway Library at the Harvard Medical School in Longwood.
Thanks to Alison Harris, Santo Domingo Project Manager and Joan Thomas, Rare Book Cataloger at Countway for contributing this post.