Emaciated, Exhausted and Excited: The Bodies and Minds of the Irish in Nineteenth-Century Lancashire Asylyms

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Title: Emaciated, Exhausted and Excited: The Bodies and Minds of the Irish in Nineteenth-Century Lancashire Asylyms
Authors: Cox, Catherine
Marland, Hilary
York, Sarah
Permanent link: http://hdl.handle.net/10197/7967
Date: Nov-2012
Abstract: Drawing on asylum reception orders, casebooks and annual reports, as well as County Council notebooks recording the settlement of Irish patients, this article examines a deeply traumatic and enduring aspect of the Irish migration experience, the confinement of large numbers of Irish migrants in the Lancashire asylum system between the 1850s and the 1880s. This period saw a massive influx of impoverished Irish into the county, particularly in the post-Famine years. Asylum superintendents commented on the impact of Irish patients in terms of resulting management problems in what became, soon after their establishment, overcrowded and overstretched asylums. The article examines descriptions of Irish patients, many of whom were admitted in a poor state of health. They were also depicted as violent and difficult to manage, though reporting of this may have been swayed by anti-Irish sentiment. The article suggests that a hardening of attitudes took place in the 1870s and 1880s, when theories of degeneration took hold and the Irish in Ireland exhibited exceptionally high rates of institutionalization. It points to continuities across this period: the ongoing association between mental illness and migration long after the massive Famine influx had abated, and claims that the Irish, at one and the same time referred to as volatile and vulnerable, were particularly susceptible to the challenges of urban life, marked by their intemperance, liability to general paralysis, turbulence and immorality. Asylum superintendents also noted the relative isolation of the Irish, which led to their long-term incarceration. The article suggests that commentary about Irish asylum patients provides traction in considering broader perceptions of the Irish body, mobility and Irishness in nineteenth-century England, and a deeper understanding of institutionalization.
Type of material: Journal Article
Publisher: Taylor and Francis
Copyright (published version): 2012 the Author
Keywords: Asylum systems;Lancashire;Irish migration
DOI: 10.1093/jsh/shs091
Language: en
Status of Item: Peer reviewed
Appears in Collections:History Research Collection

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