The signal and the noise

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Title The signal and the noise: the historical epidemiology of insanity in ante-bellum New Jersey
Author(s) James E. Moran
Journal History of Psychiatry
Date 2003
Volume 14
Issue 55
Start page 281
End page 301
Abstract This paper argues that the historical epidemiology of mental illness is inevitably context bound. This argument is made through the analysis of civil court records relating to the mental illness of New Jersey residents from 1790 to 1867. The records demonstrate that the social contexts out of which mad behaviour emerged at a given period, and the social responses to that behaviour, could influence the incidence and prevalence of mental illness. Attention to historical context leads to the conclusion that the mental illness of individuals in ante-bellum New Jersey was a complex product of the social and the biopathological.
DOI 10.1177/0957154X030143002

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