Care of the insane in Lübeck during the 17th and 18th centuries

Horst Dilling*, Hans Peter Thomsen, Fritz Hohagen

*Corresponding author for this work
1 Citation (Scopus)


Only selected aspects of the history of the House of the Poor Insane in the Hanseatic Free City of Lübeck have been studied to date. This article presents the results of an entire source study of this small institution in the 17th and 18th centuries, and briefly also during the next 40 years after the opening of a new building. In addition to the minute-book of the Governors, now kept in the Lübeck Municipal Archives, the results are based primarily on the account-books, which illustrate the institution's social history and activities. Examples are given. During most of the 17th century, the House was generally rather like a prison for the insane, but at the end of this century and in the early 18th there was a reform phase. This was followed by phases of repression and 'containment' at the end of the 18th century and in the early 19th century, before a renewed reform by the medical profession. The findings for Lübeck are compared with the development of inpatient care in institutions elsewhere, and the decisive factors in Lübeck are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
JournalHistory of Psychiatry
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)371-386
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 12.2010

Research Areas and Centers

  • Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)


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