Insanity and the Lunatic Asylum

insanity and the lunatic asylum_frontInsanity and the Lunatic Asylum in the Nineteenth Century was published in December, a book which grew out of a conference I organised back in 2010 (you can read a report here), and which I’ve been editing with a colleague, Thomas Knowles. It’s a project which has been a long time coming, but we’re delighted with the final book and immensely grateful to our contributors, who have produced some outstanding chapters for the book, and to our editors at Pickering & Chatto. We’ve just had our first review, on the Criminal Lunacy blog written by David J. Vaughan, and I’m delighted it’s so positive about the book. Among other things, it says ‘it opens up a fascinating treasure chest of anecdotal and statistical material,’ and ‘as a collection of thought on the heavily nuanced subject of insanity and its place in – or, more accurately, beyond – nineteenth century society, it delivers with alacrity and aplomb. It was a pleasure to read.’ Details of the book are below.

The nineteenth-century asylum was the scene of both terrible abuses and significant advancements in treatment and care. The essays in this collection look at the asylum from the perspective of the place itself – its architecture, 5730033486_c9bf43c1ecfunding and purpose – and at the experience of those who were sent there. Fictional as well as historical sources are used in order to present a study of the asylum both as it was and as it was perceived in the popular imagination.


Introduction – Serena Trowbridge and Thomas Knowles
Part I: Literary
1 ‘Horrible Dens of Deception’: Thomas Bakewell, Thomas Mulock and Anti-Asylum Sentiments, c.1815–58 – Rebecca Wynter
2 ‘This Most Noble of Disorders’: Matilda Betham on the Reformation of the Madhouse – Elaine Bailey
3 The Legacy of Victorian Asylums in the Landscape of Contemporary British Literature – Thomas Knowles
Part II: Quantitative
4 Building a Lunatic Asylum: ‘A Question of Beer, Milk and the Irish’ – Bernard Melling
5 ‘Just Can’t Work Them Hard Enough’: A Historical Bioarcheological Study of the Inmate Experience at the Oneida County Asylum – Shawn Phillips
6 ‘Always Remember that you are in your Senses’: From Keeper to Attendant to Nurse – Claire Chatterton
7 ‘Atrophied’, ‘Engorged’, ‘Debauched’: Muscle Wastage, Degenerate Mass and Moral Worth in the General Paralytic Patient – Jennifer Wallis
Part III: Cultural
8 ‘Attitudes Passionelles’: The Pornographic Spaces of the Salpêtriére – Amanda Finelli
9 ‘The Poison that Upsets my Reason’: Men, Madness and Drunkenness in the Victorian Period – Kostas Makras
10 ‘Madness and masculinity’: Male Patients in London Asylums and Victorian Culture – Helen Goodman
11 ‘Straitjacket’: A Confined History – Will Wiles

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