Send to

Choose Destination
Hist Psychiatry. 2018 Sep 24:957154X18801766. doi: 10.1177/0957154X18801766. [Epub ahead of print]

Showers: from a violent treatment to an agent of cleansing.

Author information

Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand.


In the early nineteenth century, physicians designed the first manufactured showers for the purpose of curing the insane. Sustained falls of cold water were prescribed to cool hot, inflamed brains, and to instil fear to tame impetuous wills. By the middle of the century showers had appeared in both asylums and prisons, but shower-related deaths led to their decline. Rather than being abandoned, however, the shower was transformed by the use of warm water to economically wash the skins of prison and asylum populations. In stark contrast to an involuntary, deliberately unpleasant treatment, by the end of the century the shower was a desirable product for the improvement of personal hygiene and population health.


19th century; Asylum; hydropathy; mania; psychiatry; shower-bath


Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Atypon
Loading ...
Support Center