Mental health is among the most debated themes within medical history. A standard historical account of mental health history looks something like this: in the medieval period, mental disorder was considered a fairly normal part of everyday life; mental distress could be understood in religious terms, a gift or punishment from God or as a problem of humoral imbalance, but not always as a medical problem in its more modern sense. However, between around the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries, Europe witnessed a Scientific Revolution in which traditional ideas about the world, rooted in religion, theology and superstition, gradually gave way to more secular outlooks. The emerging sciences valued facts, observation and scientific proof; scientific investigation began to replace theoretical speculation. In light of this, attitudes towards the body and madness changed radically. The new breed of scientists attacked traditional humoral medicine, based largely on the theories of Aristotle (384–322 bc). A fashionable view of the body as a machine ready for analysis and observation encouraged research into its solid, physical parts. Anatomists investigated the circuitry of the body - limbs, spinal cords, nerves and reflected upon the role of the nervous system in governing sensation and motion. A new mechanical view of the body was being forged.
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