In the second half of the nineteenth century medical discourse intertwined etiologies of nervous diseases with political concerns by connecting such maladies to nationality and ethnicity or, as practically all European physicians put it then, to ‘race’. Above all, this link was established by the concept of ‘mental degeneracy’, introduced into European medicine in 1857 by Bénédict-Augustin Morel. 1 Degeneracy was generally understood to constitute a long-term effect of modernity – especially urbanization and industrialization – whose vices, pressures, demands, speed and noise were said to impose an inordinate burden on the nervous system, lead to fatigue and bring people to seek consolation in drink, sexual perversion or crime. Such decadence was assumed to further weaken the nerves to a degree which could be transmitted by heredity to later generations, where there would be even more exhaustion, depravity and, ultimately, neurosis and psychosis. 2