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The working lives of paid carers in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries
Editors: Anne Borsay and Pamela Dale

This book seeks to integrate the history of mental health nursing with the wider history of institutional and community care for people experiencing mental illness and/or living with a learning disability. It develops new research questions by drawing together a concern with exploring the class, gender, skills and working conditions of practitioners with an assessment of the care regimes staff helped create and patients’ experiences of them. Contributors from a range of disciplines use a variety of source material to examine both continuity and change in the history of care over two centuries. The book benefits from a foreword by Mick Carpenter and will appeal to researchers and students interested in all aspects of the history of nursing and the history of care. The book is also designed to be accessible to practitioners and the general reader.

The working lives of paid carers from 1800 to the 1990s
Anne Borsay and Pamela Dale

This introductory chapter provides an overview of the working lives of paid carers over two centuries. The emergence of modern nursing is usually dated to the mid-nineteenth century. Its complex evolution and international variations were shaped by the relationship between nursing and the state, religious influences, economics, a concern with social welfare, class and gender issues, scientific innovation, the reform of hospitals, and the development of a distinct body of nursing knowledge. Such analysis tends to prioritise the experiences of the general nurse while the asylum attendant/ psychiatric nurse tends to be either overlooked or described in a way that suggests inferiority. A narrative of catching up and falling behind imbues these debates with general nursing serving as an exemplar. This perspective neglects to consider the appropriateness of general hospital attitudes and practices to the care of the mentally ill, the special qualities and specific skills that might be demanded of the asylum attendant/ nurse, and the distinctive problems presented by their working environment. The idea that nurses’ needs and experiences can shape their responses to patient needs, and thus wider care regimes, is only just gaining credence but is the starting point for this collection of essays.

in Mental health nursing
Nursing shell-shocked patients in Cardiff during the First World War
Anne Borsay and Sara Knight

This chapter begins by considering Wilfred Owen’s powerful poem, ‘Mental Cases’. The devastation of shell-shocked men is starting to be understood but what of the women who nursed these traumatized victims? The chapter teases out their experiences and assesses the implications for the professionalisation of mental nursing using the Cardiff City Mental Hospital/Welsh Metropolitan War Hospital as a case study. A variety of sources aid examination of the intersection of four key themes: medicine, gender, class, and war. In addition, nursing registers are used to identify the occupational and social backgrounds of recruits and to track the destinations of staff leaving the Hospital, often after only a short period of service. This raises questions about how far the pressures of war dissolved traditional gender and class relations.

in Mental health nursing