Drinkers, Drunkards, and Degenerates: The Alcoholic Population of a Parisian Asylum, 1867-1914

  • Patricia E. Prestwich


The medicalization of alcoholism by the psychiatrie profession in the latter decades of the nineteenth century can be considered an important factor in the expanding power ofthe psychiatric profession in France. Yet the relationship between alcoholism and psychiatry has always been ambivalent. An extensive debate among French psychiatrists in the 1890s over the treatment of alcoholic mental patients reveals their desire to narrow the definition of alcoholism in order to restrict their clientele. These debates suggest that medicalization is a complex process that can involve the rejection as well as the appropriation of expertise.