‘I am very glad and cheered when I hear the flute’: the treatment of criminal lunatics in late Victorian Broadmoor

Shepherd, Jade (2016) ‘I am very glad and cheered when I hear the flute’: the treatment of criminal lunatics in late Victorian Broadmoor. Medical History, 60 . pp. 473-491. ISSN 0025-7273

Full content URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/mdh.2016.56

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Abstract

Through an examination of previously unseen archival records, including patients’ letters, this article examines the treatment and experiences of patients in late-Victorian Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum and stakes the place of this institution within the broader history of therapeutic regimes in British asylums. Two main arguments are put forth. The first relates to the evolution of treatment in Victorian asylums. Historians tend to agree that in the 1860s and 1870s ‘psychiatric pessimism’ took hold, as the optimism that had accompanied the growth of moral treatment along with its promise of a cure for insanity abated. It has hitherto been taken for granted that all asylums reflected this change. I question this assumption by showing that Broadmoor did not sit neatly within this framework. Rather, the continued emphasis on work, leisure and kindness privileged at this institution into the late-Victorian period was often welcomed positively by patients and physicians alike. Second, I show that in Broadmoor’s case moral treatment was determined not so much by the distinction between the sexes as the two different classes of patients - Queen’s pleasure patients and insane convicts - in the asylum. This distinction between patients not only led to different modes of treatment within Broadmoor, but impacted patients’ asylum experiences. The privileged access the Broadmoor records provide to patients’ letters not only offers a new perspective on the evolution of treatment in Victorian asylums, but also reveals the rarely accessible views of asylum patients and their families on asylum care.

Keywords:Broadmoor, Criminal Lunatics, History from Below, Moral Treatment, Psychiatric Pessimism, JCOpen
Subjects:V Historical and Philosophical studies > V144 Modern History 1800-1899
Divisions:College of Arts > School of History & Heritage > School of History & Heritage (History)
ID Code:24085
Deposited On:25 Sep 2016 08:31

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