French asylum doctor Ludger Lunier’s effort to measure the causal force of war and revolution in the production of insanity involved reasoning from data in an unfamiliar form. Lunier built up what we can call a medical database from an accumulation of about four hundred compact case narratives, some of them based on his direct experience. Although the conclusions he sought were purely quantitative ones, he returned repeatedly to these elemental accounts of the genesis of madness. This essay is part of a special issue entitled Histories of Data and the Database edited by Soraya de Chadarevian and Theodore M. Porter.

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