The enactment of the 1838 French law set an important precedent for the creation of a national framework dealing with lunacy. European countries with a continental law tradition such as Belgium, Spain, and Italy gradually adopted mental health provisions inspired by the Loi Esquirol. In the case of Belgium, the “Loi du 18 Juin 1850” represented the first attempt to construct a comprehensive legislation for regulating lunatic asylums.
The first law originated from a governmental commission appointed in the late 1830s to examine the conditions of pauper lunatics in the country. The renowned Belgian alienist Joseph Guislain took part at this commission and for this reason, the 1850 law is sometimes referred to as the Loi Guislain. This original framework was amended by the Arrêté Royal of 1 May 1851, by the systematic revision advanced on 28 December 1873 (published on 25 January 1874), and by the Arrêté Ministériel of 25 August 1885.
Click on the following reference to access original copies.
• Joseph Guislain, Exposé sur l’État Actuel des Aliénés en Belgique (Gand: Gyselynck, 1838).
• Théophile Wouters, Du Régime Des Aliénés En Belgique: Commentaire Pratique (Gand: Hoste, 1892).
• Henri M. Willemaers, La Loi sur le Régime des Aliénés (Belgium: Imprimerie Veuve Ferdinand Larcier, 1899).