Mental Disability in Victorian England: The Earlswood Asylum 1847-1901

Hardcover | October 15, 2001

byDavid Wright

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This book contributes to the growing scholarly interest in the history of disability by investigating the emergence of 'idiot' asylums in Victorian England. Using the National Asylum for Idiots, Earlswood, as a case-study, it investigates the social history of institutionalization,privileging the relationship between the medical institution and the society whence its patients came. By concentrating on the importance of patient-centred admission documents, and utilizing the benefits of nominal record linkage to other, non-medical sources, David Wright extends research on theconfinement of the 'insane' to the networks of care and control that operated outside the walls of the asylum. He contends that institutional confinement of mentally disabled and mentally ill individuals in the nineteenth century cannot be understood independently of a detailed analysis of familialand community patterns of care. In this book, the family plays a significant role in the history of the asylum, initiating the identification of mental disability, participating in the certification process, mediating medical treatment, and facilitating discharge back into the community. Byexploring the patterns of confinement to the Earlswood Asylum, Professor Wright reveals the diversity of the 'insane' population in Victorian England and the complexities of institutional committal in the nineteenth century. Moreover, by investigating the evolution of the Earlswood Asylum, itexamines the history of the institution where John Langdon Down made his now famous identification of 'Mongolism', later renamed Down's Syndrome. He thus places the formulation of this archetype of mental disability within its historical, cultural, and scientific contexts.

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This book contributes to the growing scholarly interest in the history of disability by investigating the emergence of 'idiot' asylums in Victorian England. Using the National Asylum for Idiots, Earlswood, as a case-study, it investigates the social history of institutionalization,privileging the relationship between the medical insti...

David Wright is at McMaster University.

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:256 pages, 8.5 × 5.43 × 0.75 inPublished:October 15, 2001Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199246394

ISBN - 13:9780199246397

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Table of Contents

Introduction1. The State and Mental Disability2. An Asylum for Idiots3. Care in the Community4. Institutionalizing Households5. Idiots by Election6. To Know No Weariness7. The Golden Chain of Charity8. The Educable Idiot9. Down's Syndrome10. The Danger of the Feeble-Minded11. ConclusionsSelect BibliographyIndex

Editorial Reviews

`Wright succeeds in constructing the bigger picture of nineteenth century provision for 'mentally disabled' people ... he does bring together an impressive array of biographical, archival and demographic data to support his account of the origins and development of the Earlswood Asylum.'Local Population Studies