CCG - Insanity

Exam Preparation, 17th May, 2013.



1750 - 1840
  • Intellectual and Scientific movement.
  • Institutionalisation of the mentally disordered began.

  • professional claims and assumptions to the confinement of insane with a new brief: to make the mad well again and discipline them into ways of sanity and reason.

  • Asylums were build outside of the urban community.

  • this made it difficult and expensive for relatives to visit.

  • This increased the mentally disordered's isolation from normal society.

  • British society is still burdened with this.

Lunacy Acts

  • Poor Law (country and borough) asylums catered for the mass population with modest or little means, especially after the 1845 Lunacy Acts.

Mid-19th C.

  • By the mid-19th C, "the insane were clearly and sharply distinguished from other 'problem populations'. They found themselves incarcerated in a specialized, bureaucratically organised, state supported asylum system which isolated them physically as well as symbolically from the larger society." - Andrew Scull.

Showalter - women & institutionalisation

  • "By 1872, out of 58,640 certified lunatics in England and Wales, 31,822 were women." - Showalter
  • Women lived longer than men, & the Victorian male attitude towards women defined female sanity.
    • "In a society that not only perceived women as childlike, irrational, and sexually unstable but also rendered them legally powerless and economically marginal, it is not surprising that they should for the greater part of the residual category." - Showalter

(arguments against Showalter)
- women may have used asylums to recover effectively.
- men and women had equal status in asylums.


1880 - 1900
  • Hysteria received intense attention during the late 1800s.
  • Charcot was a neuropsychiatrist who demonstrated hysteria was not confined to women, and was not sexually related.
  • His discovery did not change the stereotype.

Lunacy Act

  • 1890 Lunacy Act follows ‘scandals’ of 1880s of private incarceration – Woman in White but also Georgiana Weldon.
  • 1890 legislation increases patient’s protection esp. for private asylums but confirms asylum as key facility.

Growing numbers of those identified a 'mad'.



1914 - 1918
  • WWI forced the recognition of "hysteria" in men.
  • "Shell-shock" describes both the physical and psychological symptoms of warfare.
  • Men were often shot in the trenches for "cowerdice".
  • Symptoms include - withdrawal, staring with eyes glazed over, shaking, clutching a weapon.

Psychology and WWI

1914 - 1918
  • Propaganda
  • Shell-shock
  • Romanticising the war at home
  • Following command -> thereby surrendering free will
  • Chemical warfare -> the lengths humans will go to to win.

  • "Daddy, what did YOU do in the war?" -> implies those who did not become soldiers would be viewed as a disappointment by their children.

Mental Treament Act

  • introduces temporary & voluntary patients, with no need to be certified.
  • removes political stigma.
  • Asylums can now become mental treatment facilities.

NHS & Mental Health

5 July 1948
  • Community care of the mentally disordered was a responsibility of the local Authorities.
  • Most staff were voluntary (Central Association for Mental Welfare).
  • Mental hospitals remain the mainstay of treatment under consultants – med control.

  • lays the foundations for a more professional approach to a more caring society... but new vested interests were created.

Theorists challenge Asylum Care

1950 - 1960
  • Social and Political Theorists challenge institutional care:
  • i.e. Goffman, R. D. Laing, Foucault.

K. Kesey, 'One Flew Over the Cockoo's Nest'

  • Institutions and the power exerted over inmates widely criticised by libertarians inc. the above.

Burgess, 'A Clockwork Orange'

  • Novella published.
  • Alex's capture and attempt at rehabilitation via controversial psychological conditioning. (Ludovico Technique)
  • Totalitarianism by way of mind control.

The first modern debates on insanity in social and cultural history

1970 - 1980
  • Goffman, R. D. Laing, Foucault.

Kubrick, Clockwork Orange


George W Brown and Tirril Harris

  • Discovered women were more likely to become severely depressed if they had: - 3+ children under the age of 14 at home. - no one to confide in. - lost their mother before the age of 11. - financial or housing problems.