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Title: Senility before Alzheimer : old Age in British psychiatry, c. 1835-1912
Author: Andrews, Emily Stella
ISNI:       0000 0004 5357 4008
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2014
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This thesis addresses the place of old age in British psychiatry, from 1835-1912. It asks: how were mental disorders in old age understood, categorised and responded to? It seeks answers to these questions in three sets of sources: theoretical published works written by professional psychiatrists, the official reports of the bodies charged with managing the asylum at a national and local level, and in the patient records of Hanwell County Lunatic Asylum. It argues that the ‘senile’ became more clearly defined in the latter nineteenth century, in politics and in medicine, as a residual category of person: too insane for the workhouse, too old for the asylum. It shows that, during this period, older people in the asylum were increasingly likely to be viewed as ‘old’. Through the increasing focus on internal pathology as an aetiological determinant of mental disorder, both engendered and reflected in changes to the asylum’s patient records, the inherent agedness of older people – with associations of inevitable decline, incurability and dependency – became central to the way that psychiatrists interpreted their mental disorders. The senile were a controversial group in nineteenth-century psychiatry. The administrators of Lunacy made attempts to exclude them from the asylum, but families and workhouse officials continued to send them there. The asylum played an important role in latter-nineteenth-century London as a pressure-valve for those whose behaviour made them unmanageable in other settings. Without more specialised provision, the asylum was often the only institution which could manage the elderly mentally disordered. Once there, aged patients worked and were cared for alongside the rest of the asylum population, usually until their death.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: DA Great Britain ; HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform ; RC Internal medicine