Dark Bodies. Clinical histories and the route to admission
to the Palermo madhouse (1890-1902)
Before the enactment, at the turn of the Twentieth century, of the first Italian laws on insane persons’ care and custody, the entry process to an asylum drew its legitimacy from the connection between psychiatry and public order. As a matter of fact, two routes were established to attest a case of madness. The first one, social, was started by a request of the community to the public order authority and ended up in a provisional admission. The second route was medical in its character. It began with a period of observation of the in-patient and brought about a permanent admission after a diagnosis of the illness. This research is based on the clinical histories of the female inmates at the madhouse of Palermo. This is the only source for the doctorpatient relationship from where one can analyses the psychiatric techniques of observation in an asylum. Through these clinical cases one can follow the process that transformed madness into illness.