Before Depression
1660 - 1800

'Depression and the mental world of early modern women'

Professor Anne Laurence

How do you conceptualise depression in an era when the word was unknown in the sense of a psychological disorder and when the prevailing medical philosophy-humoral pathology--placed much less emphasis than modern'scientific' medicine does on the mind/body split? One very clear example to study is that of post-natal depression, for which there are many well attested instances in the writings of seventeenth century women. What meanings did women attach to the experience? How did theytreat it and how did their relatives, friends and advisors treat it? And what does this say about the widely held notion that post-natal depression is linked to the medicalisation of childbirth and, in particular, to childbirth in hospital?

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