Hostname: page-component-797576ffbb-58z7q Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2023-12-06T18:24:41.778Z Has data issue: false Feature Flags: { "corePageComponentGetUserInfoFromSharedSession": true, "coreDisableEcommerce": false, "useRatesEcommerce": true } hasContentIssue false

Melancholia and Depression During the 19th Century: a Conceptual History

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 January 2018

G. E. Berrios*
Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge, Level E4 Spur, Addenbrooke's Hospital, Hills Road, Cambridge CB2 2QQ


The meaning of ‘melancholia’ in classical antiquity is opaque and has little in common with 20th-century psychiatric usage (Drabkin, 1955; Heiberg, 1927). At that time, melancholia and mania were not polar opposites (i.e. one was not defined as having opposite features to the other). Melancholia was defined in terms of overt behavioural features such as decreased motility, and morosity (Roccatagliata, 1973; Simon, 1978). Hence, in medical usage, ‘melancholia’ referred to a subtype of mania and named, in general, states of reduced behavioural output. These included disorders that might “exhibit depressed, agitated, hallucinatory, paranoid and even demented states … the ancient diagnosis of melancholy has no correct analogue in modern psychiatric practice …” (Siegel, 1973, p. 274).

Copyright © Royal College of Psychiatrists, 1988 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Ackerknecht, E. (1967) Medicine at the Paris Hospital 1794–1848. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press.Google Scholar
Arnold, T. (1782) Observations on the Nature, Kinds, Causes and Prevention of Insanity, vol. 1. Leicester: G. Ireland.Google Scholar
Baillarger, J. G. F. (1853) Essai sur une classification des differents genres de folie. Annales Médico-Psychologiques, 5, 545566.Google Scholar
Baillarger, J. G. F. (1854) De la folie à double-forme. Annales Médico-Psychologiques, 6, 367391.Google Scholar
Baldwin, J. M. (1901) Dictionary of Philosophy and Psychology. London: MacMillan.Google Scholar
Battie, W. (1758) A Treatise on Madness. London: J. Whiston and B. White.Google Scholar
Beer, D. & Berrios, G. E. (1988) Unitary psychosis: a conceptual history. Psychological Medicine (in press).Google Scholar
Bégin, J. (1834) Nostalgie. In Dictionnaire de Médicine et de Chirurgie Pratiques, vol. 12, pp. 7684. Paris: Mequignon Marvis.Google Scholar
Berrios, G. E. (1981a) Delirium and confusion in the 19th century: a conceptual history. British Journal of Psychiatry, 139, 439449.Google Scholar
Berrios, G. E. (1981b) Stupor: a conceptual history. Psychological Medicine, 11, 677688.Google Scholar
Berrios, G. E. (1984) Descriptive psychopathology: conceptual and historical aspects. Psychological Medicine, 14, 303313.Google Scholar
Berrios, G. E. (1985a) The psychopathology of affectivity: conceptual and historical aspects. Psychological Medicine, 15, 745758.Google Scholar
Berrios, G. E. (1985b) ‘Depressive pseudodementia’ or ‘melancholic dementia’: a 19th century view. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, 48, 393400.Google Scholar
Berrios, G. E. (1987) Historical aspects of the psychoses: 19th century issues. British Medical Bulletin, 43, 484498.Google Scholar
Berrios, G. E. (1988a) Depressive and manic states during the 19th century. In Handbook of Affective Disorders (eds Gorgotas, D. & Cancro, T.) ch. 2, pp. 1325. New York: Elsevier Science Publishers.Google Scholar
Berrios, G. E. (1988b) The historical development of abnormal psychology. In Textbook of Abnormal Psychology (eds Miller, E. & Cooper, P. J.). London: Churchill Livingstone.Google Scholar
Berrios, G. E. & Hauser, R. (1988) The early development of Kraepelin's ideas on classification: a conceptual history. Psychological Medicine (in press).Google Scholar
Billod, E. (1856) Des diverses formes fr lypémanie. Annales Médico-Psychologiques, 2, 308338.Google Scholar
Bolton, J. S. (1908) Maniacal–depressive insanity. Brain, 31, 301318.Google Scholar
Bowman, I. A. (1975) William Cullen (1710–1790) and the primacy of the nervous system. PhD Thesis, Indiana University.Google Scholar
Briand, M. & Azemar, C. (1923) La ‘folie maniaque depressive’ au XVIIIe siécle. Annales Médico-Psychologique, 12, 1824.Google Scholar
Bucknill, J. C. & Tuke, D. H. (1858) A Manual of Psychological Medicine. London: Churchill.Google Scholar
Bulbena, A. & Berrios, G. E. (1986) Pseudodementia: facts and figures. British Journal of Psychiatry, 148, 8793.Google Scholar
Burton, R. (1883) The Anatomy of Melancholy. London: Chatto and Windus.Google Scholar
Chaslin, P. (1912) Eléments de sémiologie et clinique mentales. Paris: Asselin et Houzeau.Google Scholar
Crichton, A. (1798) An Inquiry into the Nature and Origin of Mental Derangement. London: Cadell, Junior, and Davies.Google Scholar
Danion, J. M., Keppi, J. & Singer, L. (1985) Une approche historique de la doctrine des dégénréscences et des constitutions psychopatiques. Annales Médico-Psychologiques, 146, 271280.Google Scholar
Delasiauve, L. J. F. (1856) Du diagnostic différentiel de la lypémanie. Annales Médico-Psychologiques, 3, 380442.Google Scholar
Del Pistoia, L. (1971) Le problème de la temporalité dans la Psychiatrie française classique. L'Evolution Psychiatrique, 36, 445474.Google Scholar
Desruelles, M., Léculier, P. & Gardien, M. P. (1934) Contribution a l'histoire des classifications psychiatriques. Annales Médico-Psychologiques, 92, 637675.Google Scholar
Dowbiggin, I. (1985) Degeneration and hereditarianism in French mental medicine 1840–90. In The Anatomy of Madness (eds Bynum, W. F., Porter, R. & Shepherd, M.) vol. 1, pp. 189232. London: Tavistock.Google Scholar
Drabkin, I. E. (1955) Remarks on ancient psychopathology. Isis, 46, 223234.Google Scholar
Esquirol, J. E. (1820) Mélancolie. In Dictionnaire des Sciences Médicales par une Société de Médicins et de Chirurgienms. Paris: Panckoucke.Google Scholar
Falret, J. P. (1854) Mémoire sur la folie circulaire. Bulletin de l'Académie de Médicine, 19, 382415.Google Scholar
von Feuchtersleben, E. (1847) The Principles of Medical Psychology. London: Sydenham Society.Google Scholar
Flashar, H. (1966) Melancholie und Melancholiker in den Medizinischen Theorien der Antike. Berlin: W. D. Gruyter.Google Scholar
Foville, A. (1872) Nomenclature et classification des maladies mentales. Annales Médico-Psychologiques, 30, 535.Google Scholar
Foville, A. (1882) Folie à double-forme. Brain, 5, 288323.Google Scholar
Friedlander, R. (1973) Benedict Augustin Morel and the development of the theory of dégénérescence'. PhD thesis. University of California.Google Scholar
Griesinger, W. (1867) Mental Pathology and Therapeutics (translated by Robertson, C. L. & Rutherford, J.). London: New Syndeham Society.Google Scholar
Gull, W. W. (1894) A Collection of the Published Writing of W. W. Gull (ed. Acland, T. D.). London: The New Syndenham Society.Google Scholar
Haslam, J. (1809) Observations on Madness and Melancholy (2nd edn). London: Callow.Google Scholar
Heiberg, J. L. (1927) Geisteskrankheiten in klassischen Altertum. Zeitschrift für Psychiatrie, 86, 144.Google Scholar
Heron, M. J. (1965) A note on the concept endogenous-exogenous. British Journal of Medical Psychology, 38, 241245.Google Scholar
Hoeldtke, R. (1967) The history of associationism and British medical psychology. Medical History, 11, 4664.Google Scholar
Huber, J. P. (1985) Aretée de Cappadoce et la psychose maniaco-dépressive. L'Information Psychiatrique, 61, 13751386.Google Scholar
Jackson, S. W. (1969) Galen on mental disorder. Journal of the History of the Behavioural Sciences, 5, 365384.Google Scholar
Jackson, S. W. (1981) Two sufferers' perspectives on melancholia: 1690–1790. In Essays in the History of Psychiatry (eds Wallace, E. R. IV & Pressly, L. C.). Columbia: R. L. Bryan.Google Scholar
Jackson, S. W. (1983) Melancholia and mechanical explanation in eighteenth century medicine. Journal of the History of Medicine, 38, 298319.Google Scholar
Jackson, S. W. (1986) Melancholia and Depression. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
Jacquart, D. (1983) La rèflexion médicale médiévale et l'apport arabe. In Nouvelle Histoire de la Psychiatrie (eds Postel, J. & Quetel, C.), pp. 4353. Paris: Privat.Google Scholar
Jelliffe, S. E. (1931) Some historical phases of the manic–depressive synthesis. In Association for Research in Nervous and Mental Disease, vol. XI, pp. 347. William & Wilkins, Baltimore.Google Scholar
Jones, W. H. S. (1972) Hippocrates General Introduction (English translation) vol. 1. London: Heinemann Ltd.Google Scholar
Kotsopoulos, S. (1986) Aretaeus the Cappadocian on mental illness. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 27, 171179.Google Scholar
Kraepelin, E. (1921) Manic–depressive Insanity and Paranoia (translated by Barclay, R. M. from the 8th edn). Edinburgh: Livingstone.Google Scholar
Kroll, J. & Bachrach, B. (1984) Sin and mental illness in the Middle Ages. Psychological Medicine, 14, 507514.Google Scholar
Laín Entralgo, P. (1978) Historia de la Medicine. Barcelona. Salvat.Google Scholar
Lanteri Laura, G. (1972) La chronicité dans la psychiatrie modern française. Annales (Paris), 3, 548568.Google Scholar
Larson, J. L. (1971) Reason and Experience. The Representation of Natural Order in the Work of Carl Von Linné. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
Leibbrand, W. & Wettley, A. (1961) Der Wahnsinn. Geschichte der abendländischen Psychopathologie. Freiburg: Karl Alber.Google Scholar
Lewis, A. (1934) Melancholia: A historical review. Journal of Mental Science, 80, 142.Google Scholar
Lewis, A. (1971) ‘Endogenous’ and ‘exogenous’: a useful dichotomy? Psychological Medicine, 1, 191196.Google Scholar
Llopis, B. (1954) La psicosis única. Archivo de Neurobiología, 17, 339.Google Scholar
López Pinero, J. M. (1983) Historical Origins of the Concept of Neuroses (translated by Berrios, D.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Madden, J. S. (1966) Melancholy in medicine and literature: some historical considerations. British Journal of Medical Psychology, 39, 125130.Google Scholar
Masi, C. (1981) Histoire des psychoses endogènes'. L'Information Psychiatrique, 57, 5772.Google Scholar
Mayne, R. G. (1860) An Expository Lexicon of the Terms, Ancient and Modern, in Medical and General Science. London: Churchill.Google Scholar
Meynert, T. (1890) Klinische Vorlesungen über Psychiatrie auf Wissenschaftlichen Grundlagen für Studierende und Arzte, Juristen und Psychologen. Vienna: Braumüller.Google Scholar
Menninger, K., Ellenberger, H., Pruyser, P. & Mayman, M. (1958) The unitary concept of mental illness. Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic, 22, 412.Google Scholar
Möbius, P. J. (1893) Abriss der Lehre von den Nervenkrankheiten. Leipzig: Abel.Google Scholar
Morel, B. A. (1857) Traité des Dégénérescences Physiques, Intellectuelles et Morales de l'Espèce Humaine. Paris: Baillière.Google Scholar
Moreau de Tours, J. (1859) La Psychologie Morbide. Paris: Victor Masson.Google Scholar
Pinel, P. (1809) Traité Mèdico-Philosophique sur l'Aliénation Mentale (2nd edn). Paris: Brosson.Google Scholar
Prichard, J. C. (1835) A Treatise on Insanity and Other Disorders Affecting the Mind. London: Sherwood, Gilbert and Piper.Google Scholar
Rauchs, P. (1985) La ‘nostalgie’ chez Philippe Pinel. Un nouvel exemple de la ‘distriaction’ du maître de la Salpêtrière. L'Evolution Psychiatrique, 50, 759763.Google Scholar
Royal College of Physicians of London (1906) The Nomenclature of Diseases (4th edn, 3rd revision). London: HMSO.Google Scholar
Régis, E. (1885) Manuel Pratique de Médicine Mentale. Paris: Octave Doin.Google Scholar
Ritti, A. (1976) Folie a double forme. In Dictionnaire Encyclopedique des Sciences Medicales (ed. Dechambre, A.) vol. 3, 4th series, pp. 321339. Paris: Aselin.Google Scholar
Rennert, H. (1968) Wilhelm Griesinger und die Einheitpsychose. Wissenschaftliche Zeitschrift der Humbolt-Universitat, 17, 1516.Google Scholar
Roccatagliata, G. (1973) Storia della Psichiatria Antica. Milano: Hoepli.Google Scholar
Rosen, G. (1975) Nostalgia: a ‘forgotten’ psychological disorder. Psychological Medicine, 5, 340354.Google Scholar
Rush, B. (1812) Medical Inquiries and Observations upon the Diseases of the Mind. Philadelphia: Kimber & Richardson.Google Scholar
Savage, G. H. (1898) Insanity and Allied Neuroses, Practical and Clinical. London: Cassell and Company.Google Scholar
Schiller, F. (1982) A Möbius Strip. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
Sedler, M. J. & Dessain, E. C. (1983) Falret's discovery: the origin of the concept of bipolar affective illness. American Journal of Psychiatry, 140, 11271133.Google Scholar
Siegel, R. E. (1973) Galen on Psychology, Psychopathology and Function and Diseases of the Nervous System. Basel: Karger.Google Scholar
Simon, B. (1978) Mind and Madness in Ancient Greece. The Classical Roots of Modern Psychiatry. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
Starobinski, J. (1962) Historia del tratamiento de la melancolia desde los orígenes hasta 1900. Acta Psychosomática, no. 3. Geigy S.A. Basilea.Google Scholar
Tracy, T. (1969) Physiological Theory and the Doctrine of the Mean in Plato and Aristotle. The Hague: Mouton.Google Scholar
Vié, M.J. (1940) Sur l'existence d'entités morbides en psychiatrie, l'utilité et l'orientation de l'effort nosologique. Annales Médico-Psychologiques, 98, 347358.Google Scholar
Vliegen, J. (1980) Die Einheitpsychose. Stuttgart: Enke.Google Scholar
Walser, H. H. (1968) Melancholie. Medizingeschichtlicher Sichtung und Therapie, Umschau, 25, 1721.Google Scholar
Walser, R. D. (1956) What became of the degenerate. Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, 11, 422429.Google Scholar
Warren, H. C. (1921) History of the Association Psychology. New York: Scribners and Sons.Google Scholar
Wettley, A. (1959) Zur Problemgeschichte der ‘dégénérescences’. Sudhoffs Archiv, 43, 193212.Google Scholar
Submit a response


No eLetters have been published for this article.