An archaeology of lunacy examines the historic lunatic asylum from an interdisciplinary perspective, employing methods drawn from archaeology, social geography, and history to create a holistic view of the built heritage of the asylum as a distinctive building type. In the popular imagination, historic lunatic asylums were dark, monolithic, and homogenous, instruments for social confinement and punishment. This book aims to redress this historical reputation, showing how the built environment and material worlds of lunatic asylums were distinctive and idiosyncratic – and highly regional. They were also progressive spaces and proving grounds of architectural experimentation, where the reformed treatment practices known as moral management were trialled and refined. The standing remains of the nineteenth-century lunatic asylum system represent a unique opportunity to study a building-type in active transition, both materially and ideologically. When they were constructed, asylums were a composite of reform ideals, architectural materials, and innovative design approaches. An archaeological study of these institutions can offer a materially focused examination of how the buildings worked on a daily basis. This study combines critical analysis of the architecture, material remains, and historical documentary sources for lunatic asylums in England and Ireland. Students and scholars of later historical archaeology and built heritage will find the book a useful overview of this institutional site type, while historians of medicine will find the focus on interior design and architecture of use. The general public, for whom asylums frequently represent shadowy ruins or anonymous redevelopments, may be interested in learning more about the buildings.
The first chapter outlines the historical context for the book and introduces the legislative and architectural background to the establishment of lunatic asylums in England and Ireland. The concept of moral management is explored, that is management of the mentally ill in a care-taking, humane manner, which was rooted in a broader shift in attitude towards marginal elements of society, including criminals and the poor as well as the mentally and physically sick. The broader social and political background to this movement will be outlined, with reference to some of the primary writers on asylum reform. The distinctiveness of English and Irish approaches to asylum building and administration will be stressed, with reference to contemporaneous examples in Scotland and Wales. The methods employed in this research, namely archival research coupled with cartographic analysis and analysis of the built and material environment, are outlined, with reference to research recently undertaken on the built environment of English asylums, the material environment of mid-nineteenth century asylums, and archaeological approaches to institutions. The problematic status of asylum buildings as they stand today is outlined, with reference to the building histories. An outline of each chapter follows this review.
The aim of this chapter is to juxtapose the model architecture of the asylum, as a manifestation of reform ideals, with the practical negotiation of asylum spaces and the impact of the personalities of the idealists and the residents. This is considered from two different perspectives: adoption and adherence to the principals of moral management under the supervision of public and asylum authorities, and the duties and responsibilities of the general staff in the reformed asylum. The impact and viability of moral management as a spatial and practical means of managing the insane is considered in the first section of this chapter. The personalities involved in the running and management of the asylum are considered in detail in the second section, with particular focus on the duties and rules imposed on general staff such as keepers and laundry staff.
The use of administration and bureaucracy in the management of the lunatic asylum is the central focus of this chapter. This section will consider a third aspect of the imposition or development of social and hierarchical structures in the asylum, through the maintenance of a dedicated bureaucracy. In the lunatic asylum, administration was bound up in the process of admission and discharge, maintenance, and controlling the patient’s movement and experience. The imposition of bureaucratic control in the asylum, as a hierarchical power structure, is the central argument of this chapter. The regulation and running of the asylum as an individual institution, with an emphasis on how this institution differed from prisons and workhouses, is focused on here. This chapter examines systems of management and classification in the lunatic asylum among staff and patients, the material culture of bureaucratic process, and the input of the civic government on asylum construction and running.
This chapter addresses the practice of encouraging behaviours through the control of bounded space, and the cultivation of an environment maintained within boundaries. In lunatic asylums, bounded space can be seen to have created a distinct environment and identity for those who inhabited it. The consideration of the interior space of the lunatic asylum and how interior spaces dictated behaviour is the subject of much consideration in the existing literature; however, in this same literature, physical space and the material indicators of bounded space are not considered in great detail. The research outlined in this chapter contributes significantly to the literature on the built environment of asylums through the comparative examination of both the built and material environment, and the historical representation of the asylum in writing and records.
The concluding chapter of this book summarises the concluding points of each chapter, positing that the reform rhetoric surrounding lunatic asylum management in the early nineteenth century was reflected in the spatial arrangement and material administration of the buildings themselves. As such, the asylum buildings from this period, often overlooked in favour of their more elaborate successors, were proving grounds for pioneering treatment and management practices which came to define institutionalised mental health treatment in England and Ireland and beyond. The asylum architecture of the late Georgian and early Victorian period is often likened to contemporaneous institutions such as prisons and workhouses; in this section, the three site types are critically compared in light of the conclusions about asylum architecture made in the preceding chapters. The final part of this chapter addresses the ongoing issues surrounding the redevelopment and reuse of former lunatic asylum sites.