Victorian Psychiatry

Or, beyond The Female Malady: some suggestions for reading in this flourishing historiographical area. The authors whose monographs and edited volumes are listed below have also produced useful articles, and see also John Walton's important articles based on research on the Lancaster Asylum. To find further details, search the Wellcome Library online catalogue.

And if you're looking for the records of Victorian mental institutions, try searching the Wellcome/National Archives Hospital Records Database. The public search engine will only search on name or town, but putting lunatic or asylum into the hospital name search box should produce what you are looking for. However, be warned, the survival of records of private lunatic asylums is very sparse indeed.

Mental Hospitals in England: A Gazetteer of Historic Asylums and Mental Hospitals in England, 1660-1948: arranged chronologically and also acts as an index to the hospital files at Historic England’s Archives.

Index of English and Welsh Lunatic Asylums and Mental Hospitals: Based on a comprehensive survey in 1844, and extended to other asylums. including some images,maps and charts

The historical records of key UK psychiatric institutions and personnel are being digitised by the Wellcome Library and made available online: both those of institutions held at the Wellcome and those held elsewhere.

Jenny Mitcham, Digitizing a Hospital Archive: The Retreat, York, Journal of Victorian Culture, Volume 23, Issue 2, 27 April 2018, Pages 238-246

See also: The Devon County Lunatic Asylum: Social attitudes and mental illness in Devon 1845-1986:

'Based on archival case notes and supplemented by Medical Superintendents’ and Commissioners of Lunacy’s reports as well as interviews with former staff, we tell the stories of real patients and their journey into, and life within, the asylum, hoping to highlight changes in the legislation and care of people suffering from mental health problems.'

and the Unlocking the Asylum Project at Denbighshire Archives

The North Wales Hospital, Denbigh, was the main institution in North Wales for the care of the mentally ill. The institution opened in October 1848 serving the whole of North Wales and the borders. A century later, its patients numbered in excess of 1,500. The collection is varied, as well as highlighting the importance of the hospital to the economic and social life of the local area, the voluminous archives reflect developments in medical and therapeutic treatments from the late 19th century to the end of 20th century. The hospital finally closed its doors in 1995. The resulting archive is unique in its completeness

Exciting new project on Asylum Libraries: ‘Library as Laboratory’: Moral Treatment, Patient Libraries and Reading in Nineteenth-Century British and Irish Asylums':

The project examines the place of reading and writing in the nineteenth-century British and Irish asylum systems. It will explore the ways in which reading was viewed as simultaneously psychologically disruptive and restorative; how these effects were utilised as part of the therapeutic regime of ‘moral treatment’; and how patients experienced reading and writing during their institutionalisation.

Psychiatry and the Arts in Nineteenth-Century Britain (PAN) Network

The role and place of the Arts in mental health and wellbeing forms an important part of modern practice and exploration, but also has an important history of its own. This AHRC-funded network is designed to bring together scholars working on a wide variety of interrelated, cross-disciplinary projects in order to consolidate and develop historical understanding, as well as forging new connections with professionals in health and wellbeing practice, heritage and history, and the creative sector.

Jonathan Andrews, They're in the Trade... They Cannot Interfere-They Say: Scottish Lunacy Commissioners and Lunacy Reform in Nineteenth-century Scotland (1998)

Jonathan Andrews, Asa Briggs, Roy Porter, Penny Tucker, and Keir Waddington, The History of Bethlem (1997)

Jonathan Andrews and Anne Digby (eds), Sex and Seclusion, Class and Custody: Perspectives on Gender and Class in the History of British and Irish Psychiatry (2004)

Jonathan Andrews and Iain Smith (eds), Let there be light again" : a history of Gartnavel Royal Hospital from its beginnings to the present day. Essays written to mark the 150th anniversary in 1993 of Gartnavel Royal Hospital's existence on its present site (1993)

Peter Bartlett, The poor law of lunacy : the administration of pauper lunatics in mid-nineteenth century England (1999)

Peter Bartlett and David Wright, Outside the walls of the asylum: on "care and community" in modern Britain and Ireland (1999)

Emma Barrett-Brown, 'A Delicate Matter: The Madhouses of the South West of England, 1770-1851' (PhD thesis, University of Plymouth,2024)

Anne Borsay and Pamela Dale, Mental health nursing: The working lives of paid carers in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries (2015) (mostly C20th but a couple of chapters on the C19th)

Steven Cherry, Mental Health Care in Modern England: The Norfolk Lunatic Asylum/St Andrew's Hospital, 1810-1998 (2003)

Catharine Coleborne, Insanity, identity and empire: Immigrants and institutional confinement in Australia and New Zealand, 1873-1910 (2021)

Catherine Cox and Hillary Marland, Disorder Contained: Mental Breakdown and the Modern Prison in England and Ireland, 1840 - 1900 (2022) (link goes on online Open Access version)

Catherine Cox, Negotiating insanity in the southeast of Ireland, 1820-1900 (2019)

Pamela Dale and Joseph Melling (eds), Mental illness and learning disability since 1850 : finding a place for mental disorder in the United Kingdom (2005)

Gayle Davis, ‘The Cruel Madness of Love’: Sex, Syphilis and Psychiatry in Scotland, 1880-1930 (Clio Medica,85, 2008)

Anne Digby, Madness, morality, and medicine: a study of the York Retreat, 1796-1914 (1985)

Stef Eastoe, Idiocy, Imbecility and Insanity in Victorian Society: Caterham Asylum, 1867-1911 (2020)

Joel Peter Eigen, Mad-Doctors in the Dock: Defending the Diagnosis, 1760-1913 (2016)

Robert Ellis, London and its Asylums, 1888-1914: Politics and Madness (2020)

Robert Ellis, Sarah Kendall and Steven J Taylor (eds), Voices in the History of Madness: Personal and Professional Perspectives on Mental Health and Illness (2021)

Waltraud Ernst, Mad tales from the Raj: the European insane in British India, 1800-1858 (1991)

Waltraud Ernst (ed), Work, psychiatry and society, c. 1750-2015 (2016)

Catherine L. Evans, Unsound Empire: Civilization and Madness in Late-Victorian Law (2021)

Bill Forsythe and Joseph Melling (eds), Insanity, Institutions and Society, 1800-1914 (1999)

Lyndsay Galpin, Male Suicide and Masculinity in 19th-century Britain: Stories of Self-Destruction (2022)

Rosemary Golding, Music and Moral Management in the Nineteenth-Century English Lunatic Asylum (2021)

Louise Hide, Gender and Class in English Asylums, 1890-1914 (2014)

Juliet Hurn, The history of general paralysis of the insane in Britain, 1830 to 1950 (UCL PhD thesis, 1998)

Mark Jackson, The borderland of imbecility: medicine, society, and the fabrication of the feeble mind in late Victorian and Edwardian England (2000)

Åsa Jansson, From Melancholia to Depression: Disordered Mood in Nineteenth-Century Psychiatry (2021) (open access, downloadable link here)

Thomas Knowles and Serena Trowbridge, eds. Insanity and the Lunatic Asylum in the Nineteenth Century (2014) (review here)

Charlotte Mackenzie, Psychiatry for the Rich: a history of Ticehurst Private Asylum, 1792-1917 (1992)

Hilary Marland, Dangerous Motherhood: Insanity and Childbirth in Victorian Britain (2004)

Joseph Melling and Bill Forsythe, The politics of madness : the state, insanity and society in England, 1845-1914 (2006)

Pamela Michael, Care and treatment of the mentally ill in North Wales, 1800-2000: In God's Keeping (2003)

Sources in the History of Psychiatry, from 1800 to the Present (2022)

Amy Milne-Smith. Out of his mind: Masculinity and mental illness in Victorian Britain (2022)

Mark Neuendorf, Emotions and the Making of Psychiatric Reform in Britain, c. 1770-1820 (2021)

Peter Nolan, A History of Mental Health Nursing (1996)

Janet Oppenheim, "Shattered nerves": doctors, patients, and depression in Victorian England (1991)

William Llywelyn Parry-Jones. The trade in lunacy: a study of private madhouses in England in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (1972)

Alison Pedley, ">Mothers, Criminal Insanity and the Asylum in Victorian England: Cure, Redemption and Rehabilitation(2023)

Diana Peschier, Lost Souls: Women, Religion and Mental Illness in the Victorian Asylum (2019) (a review here)

David Scrimgeour, Proper People: Early Asylum Life in the Words of Those Who Were There (2016)

Andrew Scull, Charlotte MacKenzie, Nicholas Hervey, Masters of Bedlam: the transformation of the mad-doctoring trade (1995)

Anna Shepherd, Institutionalizing the Insane in Nineteenth-Century England (2014) (more information)

Leonard D. Smith, Cure, comfort, and safe custody : public lunatic asylums in early nineteenth century England (1999)

Filippo Maria Sposini, The Certification of Insanity: Local Origins and Imperial Consequences (2023)

Mark Stevens, Broadmoor Revealed: Victorian Crime and the Lunatic Asylum (2013)

Mark Stevens, Life in the Victorian Asylum: The World of Nineteenth Century Mental Health Care (2014)

Akihito Suzuki, Madness at Home: The Psychiatrist, the Patient, and the Family in England, 1820-1860 (2006): further information

Steven Taylor, Child Insanity in England, 1845-1907 (2017)

Mathew Thomson, The problem of mental deficiency: eugenics, democracy, and social policy in Britain c.1870-1959 (1998)

Trevor Turner, Diagnostic Analysis of the Casebooks of Ticehurst House Asylum, 1845-1890, Monograph Supplement to Psychological Medicine (1992)

Jennifer Wallis, Investigating the Body in the Victorian Asylum: Doctors, Patients, and Practices (2017) (Open Access: download link here)

Sara Wise, Inconvenient People: Lunacy, Liberty and the Mad-Doctors in Victorian England (2012)

David Wright, Mental Disability in Victorian England: The Earlswood Asylum 1847-1901 (2001)

David Wright and Anne Digby (eds), From Idiocy to Mental Deficiency: Historical Perspectives on People with Learning Disabilities (1996)

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