Amy Milne-Smith
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Men in care
The asylum
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The second half of the nineteenth century saw the establishment of a national network of asylums across Britain. Asylums were sites of both enormous hope and dashed expectations. This chapter explores why some people embraced institutionalization, and why others did not. It gives readers a brief overview of the structures of asylums, rules of admission for different classes, and types of conditions, and builds on the strong institutional histories of asylums. It provides information about the diversity of asylum experiences, from the elite institutions for the wealthy, to the mass pauper asylums, to the criminal asylum.

The Victorian asylum was born out of optimism, flourished in an era of no better alternatives, and quickly became a symbol of failed expectations. I focus on the male experience of incarceration, and how this experience was particularly destabilizing for those used to being in control of themselves and their families. Men also proved particularly difficult patients to control if they were prone to violence. This chapter introduces the typical experience of madness in the Victorian era that saw the asylum as at least a part of most men’s curative treatment.

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Out of his mind

Masculinity and mental illness in Victorian Britain


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