Author : John Conolly (1794-1866)

Title : The Treatment of the Insane Without Mechanical Restraints (1856)

Keywords:asylum, prison, Hanwell, past, present, restraint, non-restraint, mechanical restraint, mental disorder, malady, insane, reform, system, kindness, patience, liberty, cure, seclusion

Pages :



John Conolly is best known for his advocacy of the system of non-restraint, practiced at Hanwell. This treatise sets forth the philosophy which was to transform both his own career prospects and the care and treatment of the insane in Victorian Britain.

In the excerpts here, one of which - ‘The Treatment of the Insane before and after the Advent of Moral Management’ - was taken from V. Skultans (ed.), Madness and Morals: Ideas on Insanity in the Nineteenth Century (London, 1975), Conolly melodramatically contrasts the past and the present, suggesting how profoundly this ‘system’ challenged preconceived notions of what insanity meant, and how it should be treated.

Tracing the recent history of asylum reform, his narrative is marked by attention to detail and an almost evangelical fervor. His belief that the lunatic could be cured by moral treatment administered in the asylum underpins this hugely influential treatise.

Back to Madness Documents