The Politics of Madness: The State, Insanity and Society in England, 1845–1914, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Politics of Madness

The State, Insanity and Society in England, 1845–1914, 1st Edition

By Joseph Melling, Bill Forsythe


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The discovery and treatment of insanity remains one of the most debated and discussed issues in social history.

Focusing on the second half of the nineteenth century, The Politics of Madness provides a new perspective on this important topic, based on research drawn from both local and national material. Within a social and cultural history of the English political and class order, it presents a fresh appraisal of the significance of the asylum in the decades following the creation of a national asylum system in 1845.

Arguing that the new asylums provided a meeting place for different social interests and aspirations, the text asserts that this then marked a transition in provincial power relations from the landed interests to the new coalition of professional, commercial and populist groups, which gained control of the public asylums at the end of the period surveyed.


'The book is rich in findings founded on a strong evidential base and will be of interest not only to historians of medicine and social policy, but also those of gender, society and politics, as well as to historical geographers and sociologists … An admirable book that should be a model for further contextualized studies of asylums in particular and regional medical cultures more generally that are needed in Britain and Ireland.' – The Economic History Review

‘There is no doubt that The Politics of Madness is a major contribution that illuminates both the history of psychiatry and social policy.’Journal of the History of Medicine

Table of Contents

1 Introduction: The English Asylum and its Historians 2 The Origins of the Asylum 3 The Asylum and the British State in the administration of pauper lunacy, 1845-1914 4 The Ethos of Treatment, Care and Management at the Asylum, 1845-1914 5 Journey to the Asylum: Residence, distance and migration in admissions to the Asylum, 1845-1914 6 Community, Friends and Family: Asylum, Lunatics and the social environment, 1845-1914 7 Reading the Rules of Domesticity: Gender, insanity and the asylum, 1845-1914 8 Madness and the Market: Occupations, class and the asylum, 1845-1914 9 The Patient Experience of the Pauper and Private Asylum 10 From Asylum Inmate to Outpatient: The remaking of the institutional landscape in the Twentieth Century, 1914-1990

About the Series

Routledge Studies in the Social History of Medicine

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General
HISTORY / Social History
MEDICAL / History