Thesis abstract ‘A Space of their Own: Nineteenth Century Lunatic Asylums in Britain, South Australia and Tasmania’

19th November 2013

Susan Piddock

PhD, Department of Archaeology, Flinders University, Adelaide, 2002

In the early nineteenth century the advent of new treatments for insanity, the emergence of the non-restraint movement, and an increasing social awareness of the conditions in which the insane were being kept, led to the rise of the lunatic asylum. A growing trend to use institutions to deal with perceived problem groups within society supported the development of a system of government-funded lunatic asylums across Britain. In this thesis it will be argued that the design of the lunatic asylum was an essential part of the treatment of the insane, and that its design encompassed a whole range of ideas both explicit and non-explicit.

As will be discussed the advent of moral therapy to treat insanity and the non-restraint movement, which sought to improve the living conditions of the insane, both required the provision of specific features in a lunatic asylum that would aid in the cure of the insane person and their management on a daily basis. To access these ideas the techniques of historical archaeology are used to examine a range of documentary sources from the nineteenth century that dealt with the construction and arrangement of lunatic asylums. This in turn led to the development of a series of ‘ideal’ asylum models that were then tested against the lunatic asylums actually built in the nineteenth century to determine whether these works actually influenced the design of these lunatic asylums.

This thesis, firstly, considers lunatic asylums in nineteenth century Britain in relation to the ‘ideal’ models, and secondly, considers the lunatic asylums built in South Australia and Tasmania during the nineteenth century against these models. These two colonies were chosen because of their differing histories. Tasmania was for many decades a penal colony, while South Australia was established as a free colony and never received convicts. It will be argued that the adoption of the ‘ideal’ asylum features can be directly related to a number of key factors. These were access to a pool of knowledge about lunatic asylum design; economic constraints; the treatment mode adopted; and social perceptions of who was to be accommodated in the asylum – paupers, the middle class, the higher class, or convicts.

Piddock, S.
Thesis abstract 'A Space of their Own: Nineteenth Century Lunatic Asylums in Britain, South Australia and Tasmania'
2003
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Thesis Abstracts
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