Voices From the Early 19th-Century Asylum

The Social History of Medicine journal has recently posted a new paper online by Leonard Smith entitled “‘Your very thankful inmate’: Discovering the patients of an early county lunatic asylum.” The paper explores patient experiences at the Gloucester Asylum between 1827-1843. Smith relies primarily on personal correspondence written between relatives of patients and the medical superintendents. As he explains in the abstract:

“[The letters] offer valuable insights into a range of issues—circumstances that led to admission; the quality of relationships between patients and their families; interactions between community and institution; perceptions of life in the asylum; the processes of recovery, discharge and after-care. It becomes clear that, rather than the asylum being a closed and isolated institution, there was ongoing dialogue between patients, relatives, and medical officers, both to exchange information and also to promote recovery, discharge, and re-settlement in the community.

About Jennifer Bazar

Jennifer Bazar is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto and Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care. Her research focuses on the history of psychiatric institutionalization.