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Title: Priests of the body : professionalisation and medical ideas about insanity in nineteenth century England
Author: Ray, L. J.
ISNI:       0000 0001 3509 6899
Awarding Body: University of Sussex
Current Institution: University of Sussex
Date of Award: 1981
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This thesis explores the relationship between medical knowledge of insanity and systems of social regulation in Victorian Britain. Like other institutional responses to social deviance (prisons, reformatories, workhouses), the asylum was initially premissed upon a belief in the malleability of the human mind, or more specifically, on the possibility of generating motivational patterns appropriate to an industrial economy. This premiss is evident in the professional ideologies of physicians and asylum superintendents early in the century. Later this intention becomes submerged, though it is still present, beneath other control functions, such as the management of dangerous and perishing classes that are perceived to threaten the Victorian social order. The professional group which emerged within the County Asylum system, the medical superintendents, were employees of the local administrative state, and worked in collaboration with the New Poor Law authorities. At the same time, like other professionals, they had developed their own values and a body of knowledge, in this case, knowledge about pathological anatomy and about management of the insane in asylums. This was grounded in values of humanitarian care, and notions of civil order within moral constraint. It is suggested here that the profession was caught in a structurally defined dilemma between curative and individualistic values on one hand, and administrative and control functions on the other. The furtherance of professional interests in the state provision of psychiatric services conflicted with professional values of autonomy in defining the manner in which these were to be provided. It is in the context of this dilemmato later degeneracy views can be understood. This shift represents an attempt to re-define the parameters of professional practice from a limited focus on the asylum towards the management of social relations in general. This would have had the consequence of realising administrative goals, while preserving the autonomy of the profession's market position. Throughout the century, medical arguments concerning insanity appealed increasingly to scientific authority and technical skill, and the importance of understanding this in the context of the emergence of rational authority in Victorian society is stressed here.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Psychology