The title of this book, Mind-Forg'd Manacles, according to the author is a quotation from Blake, "to convey the sense in which society first created instruments of cultural torture, such as a theology of eternal damnation, which drove some out of their minds, and then additionally stigmatized the mad frequently as evil and dangerous." It is still axiomatic that the way the mentally ill are treated reflects the concerns and sensitivities of our culture.
In England prior to the 19th century, no institutions had been developed to assume control of the mad. According to the author, "Around 1800 no more than a few thousand lunatics" were confined in all of England. By contrast, by 1900 the total number of mentally ill confined had skyrocketed to more than 100 000. The author concludes that psychiatry, with the help of Parliament and the courts, had become a social instrument for the control