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[Perspectives] The straitjacket

Restraint is deemed to make civilised life possible, although as Sigmund Freud and many others have recognised, this comes at a cost. Loss of restraint was and is often considered one of the defining characteristics of “madness”, as the Victorians called it. Its loss rendered the unfortunate person either bad or mad. If they could not restrain themselves, institutional solutions beckoned: the prison or the “madhouse”. High walls, but also the possibility of physical restraint. Sedating drugs from the late 19th century offered a mental numbing, an internal chemical restraint.