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Rationality and reality: perspectives of mental illness in Tudor England, 1485- 1603

Sceats, Amelia G. (2016) Rationality and reality: perspectives of mental illness in Tudor England, 1485- 1603. Masters thesis, University of Huddersfield.

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Abstract

This thesis addresses a leading question that has been significantly overlooked in current early modern historiography: what were Tudor perspectives of mental illness? In order to answer this query it explores three sub-questions. First, what were Tudor theories with regards to psychological disorders? This incorporates religion, the rise and popularity of scientific medicine, attitudes towards gender differences, as well as Tudor thought on the vulnerabilities of old age. Second, what treatments and care were available for the mentally ill? This explores the variety of remedies delivered to patients and who was perceived as being responsible for their care. And finally, how did the Tudor populous react towards those with psychological difficulties? This addresses the collective mindset of ordinary Tudor citizens by looking at charitable giving, the poor law and intervention from local authorities, as well as psychological illness within popular entertainment. The notion of Tudor views of the physical and spiritual world has been emphasised throughout the course of the study. For instance, it was perfectly rational to believe in spirits, therefore explanations for mental illness which incorporated spirits were part of the Tudor reality.

This project has found that the sixteenth century populous largely accepted those who suffered from mental ailments, as well as their burden of care. Similarly, it is clear that there was an awareness of many different forms of mental illness at the time, rather than solely melancholy; which current historiographical study has greatly focused upon. One of the study’s leading conclusions is how explanations of mental illness depended on social status, age, gender and the type of illness. Whereas treatments revolved largely around the social status of the individual and what they could afford; patient gender mattered very little in practice. Thus, the thesis emphasises that theory did not always reflect reality, which was also reflected in popular entertainment. On stage, madness was often exaggerated, yet it represented the true concerns of the audience and many of mental ailments with which they were familiar. These conclusions highlight how the subject of Tudor madness is deserving of further attention, and illustrate that the topic is yet to be thoroughly explored.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
Schools: School of Music, Humanities and Media
Depositing User: Sally Hughes
Date Deposited: 08 Mar 2017 13:37
Last Modified: 08 Mar 2017 19:29
URI: http://eprints.hud.ac.uk/id/eprint/31474

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