Special Issue History of Psychiatry: Histories of Asylums, Insanity and Psychiatry in Scotland

The March 2017 issue of History of Psychiatry is now online. Guest edited by Chris Philo and Jonathan Andrews, this special issue explores “Histories of asylums, insanity and psychiatry in Scotland.” Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“Introduction: histories of asylums, insanity and psychiatry in Scotland,” by Chris Philo and Jonathan Andrews. The abstract reads,

This paper introduces a special issue on ‘Histories of asylums, insanity and psychiatry in Scotland’, situating the papers that follow in an outline historiography of work in this field. Using Allan Beveridge’s claims in 1993 about the relative lack of research on the history of psychiatry in Scotland, the paper reviews a range of contributions that have emerged since then, loosely distinguishing between ‘overviews’ – work addressing longer-term trends and broader periods and systems – and more detailed studies of particular ‘individuals and institutions’. There remains much still to do, but the present special issue signals what is currently being achieved, not least by a new generation of scholars in and on Scotland.

“A ‘Scottish Poor Law of Lunacy’? Poor Law, Lunacy Law and Scotland’s parochial asylums,” by Lauren Farquharson. The abstract reads,

Scotland’s parochial asylums are unfamiliar institutional spaces. Representing the concrete manifestation of the collision between two spheres of legislation, the Poor Law and the Lunacy Law, six such asylums were constructed in the latter half of the nineteenth century. These sites expressed the enduring mandate of the Scottish Poor Law 1845 over the domain of ‘madness’. They were institutions whose very existence was fashioned at the directive of the local arm of the Poor Law, the parochial board, and they constituted a continuing ‘Scottish Poor Law of Lunacy’. Their origins and operation significantly subverted the intentions and objectives of the Lunacy Act 1857, the aim of which had been to institute a public district asylum network with nationwide coverage.

“Liberty and the individual: The colony asylum in Scotland and England,” by Gillian Allmond. The abstract reads,

This paper analyses the buildings, spaces and interiors of Bangour Village public asylum for the insane, near Edinburgh, and compares these with an English asylum, Whalley, near Preston, of similar early-twentieth-century date. The village asylum, which developed from a European tradition of rendering the poor productive through ‘colonisation’, was more enthusiastically and completely adopted in Scotland than in England, perhaps due to differences in asylum culture within the two jurisdictions. ‘Liberty’ and ‘individuality’, in particular, were highly valued within Scottish asylum discourses, arguably shaping material provision for the insane poor from the scale of the buildings to the quality of the furnishings. The English example shows, by contrast, a greater concern with security and hygiene. These two differing interpretations show a degree of flexibility within the internationalized asylum model which is seldom recognized in the literature.

“‘Noisy, restless and incoherent’: Puerperal insanity at Dundee Lunatic Asylum,” by Morag Allan Campbell. The abstract reads,

Puerperal insanity has been described as a nineteenth-century diagnosis, entrenched in contemporary expectations of proper womanly behaviour. Drawing on detailed study of establishment registers and patient case notes, this paper examines the puerperal insanity diagnosis at Dundee Lunatic Asylum between 1820 and 1860. In particular, the study aims to consider whether the class or social status of the patients had a bearing on how their conditions were perceived and rationalized, and how far the puerperal insanity diagnosis, coloured by the values assigned to it by the medical officers, may have been reserved for some women and not for others. This examination of the diagnosis in a Scottish community, suggesting a contrast in the way that middle-class and working-class women were diagnosed at Dundee, engages with and expands on work on puerperal insanity elsewhere.

“‘The Head Carver’: Art Extraordinary and the small spaces of asylum,” by Cheryl McGeachan. The abstract reads,

This paper uses the unique collection of Scottish outsider art, labelled Art Extraordinary, as a window into the often neglected small spaces of asylum care in the early twentieth century. By drawing upon materials from the Art Extraordinary collection and its associated archives, this paper demonstrates the importance of incorporating small and everyday spaces of care – such as gardens, paths, studios and boats – into the broader historical narratives of psychiatric care in Scotland. Examples of experiential memorialization and counterpoints to asylum surveillance culture will be illuminated. The significance of using ‘outsider’ art collections as a valuable source in tracing geographical histories will be highlighted.

“Henderson and Meyer in correspondence: A transatlantic history of dynamic psychiatry, 1908–29,” by Hazel Morrison. The abstract reads,

Charting a transatlantic movement of so-called ‘dynamic psychiatry’ during the early twentieth century, this paper reads against the grain of established historiographies. Comparing biographical and autobiographical sources with contemporary correspondence, a history is told which considers the evolution of psychiatric knowledge and clinical practices ‘from below’. Revealing a period and place when a ‘dynamic’ counter-culture challenged the established materialist views of Scottish psychiatry, the longevity of this challenge is considered in the concluding paragraphs.

“Reconstructing the eclectic psychiatry of Thomas Ferguson Rodger,” by Sarah Phelan. The abstract reads,

This article provides an introduction to the approach of the Scottish psychiatrist Thomas Ferguson Rodger (1907–78), as reconstructed from his archive. Rodger’s contribution has been largely neglected within the history of Scottish psychiatry. This paper amends this neglect through situating Rodger’s eclecticism in relation to both the biopsychosocial approach of his mentors, Adolf Meyer and David Henderson, and psychiatry’s de-institutionalization in the 1950s and 1960s. It is posited that Rodger’s eclecticism was a considered response to the pressures of this transitional phase to balance physical, psychological and social approaches, and a critical acknowledgement of the instability of contemporary psychiatric therapeutics. More psychodynamic than his predecessors, the importance of social relations for Rodger led him to acknowledge psychiatry’s limitations.

“From asylum to action in Scotland: The emergence of the Scottish Union of Mental Patients, 1971–2,” by Mark Gallagher. The abstract reads,

By analysing a collection of documents authored by Thomas Ritchie, founder of the Scottish Union of Mental Patients (SUMP), this study recounts the emergence of mental patient unionism at Hartwood Hospital, North Lanarkshire, Scotland. The discourse and action employed by Ritchie and SUMP are understood and situated in relation to intended audiences, social and material conditions of the asylum space, and transformations in cultures beyond the asylum, including nascent industrial strife, social liberalism, civil rights, the London ‘underground’ and counter-cultures.

“‘Heading up a blind alley’? Scottish psychiatric hospitals in the era of deinstitutionalization,” by Vicky Long. The abstract reads,

This article examines Scottish provision of psychiatric care in the 1960s and 1970s. It demonstrates that institutional services did not rapidly disappear across the UK following the Ministry of Health’s decision to shut down psychiatric hospitals in 1961, and highlights Scotland’s distinctive trajectory. Furthermore, it contends that psychiatric hospitals developed new approaches to assist patients in this era, thereby contributing towards the transformation of post-war psychiatric practice. Connecting a discussion of policy with an analysis of provision, it examines the Department of Health for Scotland’s cautious response to the Ministry’s embrace of deinstitutionalization, before analysing Glasgow’s psychiatric provision in the 1970s. At this point the city boasted virtually no community-based services, and relied heavily on its under-resourced and overburdened hospitals. Closer analysis dispels any impression of stagnation, revealing how ideologies of deinstitutionalization transformed institutional care.

About Jacy Young

Jacy Young is a professor at Quest University Canada. A critical feminist psychologist and historian of psychology, she is committed to critical pedagogy and public engagement with feminist psychology and the history of the discipline.