The poor law of lunacy : the administration of pauper lunatics in mid-nineteenth century England, with special emphasis on Leicestershire and Rutland
Previous historical studies of the care of the insane in nineteenth century England have been based in the history of medicine. In this thesis, such care is placed in the context of the English poor law. The theory of the 1834 poor law was essentially silent on the treatment of the insane. That did not mean that developments in poor law had no effect only that the effects must be established by examination of administrative practices. To that end, this thesis focuses on the networks of administration of the poor law of lunacy, from 1834 to 1870. County asylums, a creation of the old (pre-1834) poor law, grew in numbers and scale only under the new poor law. While remaining under the authority of local Justices of the Peace, mid-century legislation provided an increasing role for local poor law staff in the admissions process. At the same time, workhouse care of the insane increased. Medical specialists in lunacy were generally excluded from local admissions decisions. The role of central commissioners was limited to inspecting and reporting; actual decision-making remained at the local level. The webs of influence between these administrators are traced, and the criteria they used to make decisions identified. The Leicestershire and Rutland Lunatic asylum provides a local study of these relations. Particular attention is given to admission documents and casebooks for those admitted to the asylum between 1861 and 1865. The examination of the asylum documents, the analysis of the broader relationships of the administrators, and a reading of the legislation itself, all point up tensions between ideologies of the old and new poor law in the administration of pauper lunacy.