In the first half of the nineteenth-century treatment of the mentally ill in Britain and Ireland underwent radical change. No longer manacled, chained and treated like wild animals, patient care was defined in law and medical understanding, and treatment of insanity developed.
Focussing on selected cases, this new study enables the reader to understand how progressively advancing attitudes and expectations affected decisions, leading to better legislation and medical practice throughout the century.
Specific mental health conditions are discussed in detail and the treatments patients received are analysed in an expert way. A clear view of why institutional asylums were established, their ethos for the treatment of patients, and how they were run as palaces rather than prisons giving moral therapy to those affected becomes apparent.
The changing ways in which patients were treated, and altered societal views to the incarceration of the mentally ill, are explored. The book is thoroughly illustrated and contains images of patients and asylum staff never previously published, as well as first-hand accounts of life in a nineteenth-century asylum from a patients perspective.
Written for genealogists as well as historians, this book contains clear information concerning access to asylum records and other relevant primary sources and how to interpret their contents in a meaningful way.
The predisposing (physical) causes included:A hereditary predisposition
- Consanguineous parents (cousin marriages)
- A great difference in age between parents
- Congenital defects
- Birth trauma
- Head injury
- Brain disease
- Pregnancy, childbirth and lactation
- The climacteric (menopause)
- Menstrual disorders
- Old age
- Fever and febrile illnesses (such as acute urinary tract infection, measles, typhoid or tuberculosis/consumption)
- Chronic physical ill-health (including gout, rheumatism, heart disease, asthma, phthisis, and syphilis)
- Privation and starvation
- Intense heat (sunstroke)
- Intense cold (hypothermia)
- Poisoning (including lead and mercury)
The moral causes included:
- Intemperance of alcohol, tobacco, opium or other substances
- Religious anxiety, excitement and 'spiritualism'
- Intense study
- Disappointment in love (including love thwarted and jealousy)
- Family affections
- Domestic troubles (including drunkenness of a family member, ill-treatment, or desertion)
- Domestic grief (illness or death of a relative or friend)
- Sexual vice, including masturbation
- Disappointed ambition
- Adverse circumstances (including business anxieties and pecuniary difficulties)
- Political excitement and war
- Fear and fright ('nervous shock')
- Sudden change from a life of idleness
- Imprisonment or solitary confinement
This is a very well written book, full of fascinating facts. Informative, and shocking, it is an eye-opening look at recent medical history.
My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.