William Battie and A Treatise on Madness

William Battie was a London physician who worked at Bethlem, a publicly funded madhouse in London. However, he left Bethlem, disgusted by their poor treatment of the patients and founded his own hospital, St. Luke’s Hospital for Lunatics (Jay 56). Battie replaced practices such as bloodletting and purging with more modern medicinal treatment and what we would consider therapeutic methods. In his 1758, A Treatise on Madness he outlined his discoveries and beliefs on mental health, and he laid out a plan for an institution specially equipped to assist those with mental illnesses (Battie 2).

In his book, Battie explained his views on madness. He believed that there were two forms of madness, original and consequential. According to Battie, original madness has no apparent cause and it cannot be cured. On the other hand, consequential madness is brought upon someone who has experienced trauma or someone who is physically weak, and Battie believes this consequential madness can be alleviated through treatment (Battie 41).

In St. Luke’s Hospital, Battie treated his patients with a variety of medicines. He administered “mercury for venereal diseases, opium for pain, cinchona bark for fever— but only for symptomatic relief” (Jay 56). Battie thought that “the antidote of madness is reserved in Nature’s store, and will be brought to light in its appointed time”; until that time, however, most cases could at best be managed (Jay 57).

The image above, “View of St. Luke’s Hospital in Upper Moorfields” (County Asylums), portrays St. Luke’s Hospital, which is one of the many hospitals that William Battie worked in. Battie was one of the head doctors at this facility.

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Jay, Mike, and Bárbara Rodríguez Muñoz. This Way Madness Lies: The Asylum and Beyond. Thames & Hudson, 2016.

Battie, William. A Treatise on Madness. Vol. 1, London: Whiston and White, 1758. https://books. google.com/books/about/A_Treatise_on_Madness.html?id=F6JbAAAAQAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=kp_read_button#v=onepage&q=anxiety&f=false. Accessed 10 April. 2018.