The History of Madness in the Ottoman State: Toptasi Example

Kilic R.

BILIG, no.67, pp.91-110, 2013 (SSCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: Issue: 67
  • Publication Date: 2013
  • Doi Number: 10.12995/bilig.2013.6705
  • Journal Name: BILIG
  • Journal Indexes: Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), Scopus, TR DİZİN (ULAKBİM)
  • Page Numbers: pp.91-110
  • Hacettepe University Affiliated: No


The aim of this study is to analyse the history of the mad and of madness in the Ottoman Empire, on the basis of the data of a mental hospital, or to be more precise on the date of the Toptasi Bimarhanesi. From 1873 to 1924, Toptasi was the main institution where the insane brought to Istanbul from all corners of the empire were hospitalised. When you look at it from the perspective of the Republic of Turkey, Toptasi represents a past in the history of the insane that one would rather forget. What is interesting is that this institution was also the target of criticism in Ottoman times. The project and efforts of both the administrators and of the doctors to establish an 'ideal mental hospital' like those in Europe came to naught. It is on the basis of such an example that we shall try to determine who the insane were, to ask questions concerning relations between the state and power, and to open up new areas of debate. With this in mind, rather than making sweeping generalisations, we shall opt for a method based on studying real individuals, with a name, a family, friends, lovers, and spouses. We believe that a study of the history of madness is important not just from the point of view of the history of Turkish psychiatry, but also from the point of view of the Turkish history of society, because no matter how many attempts were made to enclose the insane, considered alien and dangerous, behind walls, it was not possible to isolate them completely from society. It is for this reason that we cannot even imagine a history of society devoid of them.