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Mental Disability in Victorian EnglandThe Earlswood Asylum 1847-1901$
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David Wright

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780199246397

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199246397.001.0001

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An Asylum for Idiots

An Asylum for Idiots

(p.23) 2 An Asylum for Idiots
Mental Disability in Victorian England


Oxford University Press

Recent work on the emergence of the 19th-century county asylums in England has emphasised the important role that philanthropy played in the establishment of the rate-aided mental hospitals for idiots — people with mental disability. Some of the early county asylums were not purely institutions harbouring the pauperised population, but were also philanthropic institutions that accepted charitable patients. Charities played a crucial role in the development of new techniques for treating the insane. The York Retreat, an institution built by the Society of Friends, pioneered what is now famously known as the ‘moral treatment’ of insanity. With its emphasis on institutional care, moral treatment became the ideological prop for those proposing the construction of therapeutic lunatic asylums. This chapter discusses how the Earlswood Asylum was established with contributions from charity.

Keywords:   mental disability, Earlswood Asylum, idiots, moral treatment, institutional care, charities, insanity, county asylums

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