Ellis, Robert (2001) A field of practise or a mere house of detention? : the asylum and its integration, with special reference to the county asylums of Yorkshire, c.1844-1888. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

The nineteenth century witnessed a continuous growth in both the number of lunatic
asylums, and in the numbers of people held within them. For many, contemporaries,
and more recent commentators alike, the period was marked by the growing failure of
the asylum as a curative institution. The reasons cited for this failure have varied, and
at different times attention has focussed on a number of key themes. The purpose of
this thesis is to critically examine each of these themes and to assess the expectations
of those who built the asylum, those who worked in it, those who lived near it, and
perhaps most importantly of all, those who used it. As such, the six chapters examine
the asylum management and their motivations; the social separation of the insane
patient, and how this was affected by external factors; the asylum's relationship with
the various Poor Law authorities; the motivations that the families of the insane had
for committing, and not committing their kin; the treatment regimes within the
asylums, and how they differed between the sexes; and the central role that the
asylum attendants had in caring for the insane.

In each of these areas, perceptions of the asylums' supposed failure will be called into
question, and there will be a continuing consideration of its function as both a
custodial and a curative institution. Recent studies of extra-institutional care have
emphasised that treatment in the asylum remained just one option in the `mixed
economy of care'. Building on this, this thesis contests that the continued growth and
development of the asylum system could not rest on its custodial function alone.
Conversely, it shows that its ability to `cure' significant numbers of people continued
to be a significant factor throughout the period.

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