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The administration of insanity in East London, 1800-1870

Murphy, Elaine; (2001) The administration of insanity in East London, 1800-1870. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

The policies and operational management practices for mentally dependent people devised by the Parish Vestry Trustees of the Poor and the Boards of Guardians in East London are examined for the period 1800 to 1870. The study is set within the rapidly changing socio-demographic context of an increasingly overcrowded, impoverished, mobile local population comprising the parishes in the Tower Division of the Ossulstone Hundred and for the old poor law period, the City of London. Documentary sources include the records of the Vestries, Trustees and Overseers of the Poor, the Boards of Guardians, the archives of the County Lunatic Asylums at Hanwell and Colney Hatch, contemporary records of the Metropolitan and later national Commissioners in Lunacy, the Poor Law Commission and its successor the Poor Law Board and local archival materials from the Borough Archives of Hackney and Tower Hamlets. A wealth of institutions for the insane had been established locally in the eighteenth century and earlier. Large privately owned pauper lunatic asylums and huge pauper farms determined an institutional solution to managing insanity at an earlier date than was generally the case elsewhere in England. The old poor law period was characterised by a flexible, individual approach to managing the insane using a mixed economy of private and public placements, the parishes showing considerable variation in their choice of placement. This diversity of approach between neighbouring districts of Boards of Guardians continued after the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834, there being substantial continuity of practice before and after the Act in some districts. Financial and legal incentives gradually changed the placement policies of the Guardians, encouraging the use of the public asylums. Relations between the County Asylums and the Guardians, seen through the negotiations between Guardians officers, doctors and asylum staff, were often conducted through the language of dangerousness and the need to choose the most economic alternative. The Commissioners in Lunacy and the Poor Law Commissioners had only a modest impact on local policy and quality of local provision in workhouses but the culture of non-restraint and the moral stance of the Lunacy Commissioners and Hanwell Asylum may have influenced some Guardians policies. The Guardians lost much of their responsibility for the care of the insane when the Metropolitan Poor Act of 1867 gave birth to the Metropolitan Asylums Board and the new imbecile asylums. It is argued that the move away from local, individual planning and purchasing for each case to centralised, comprehensive planning for categories of classified paupers was not necessarily in the best interests of insane paupers.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: The administration of insanity in East London, 1800-1870
Event: UCL (University College London)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by ProQuest.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology > Department of Neuromuscular Diseases
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10078241
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