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Asylums were the nineteenth-century’s response to insanity. Psychiatry, as a medical discipline, grew in the asylums, and they continued to dominate the treatment of mental illness well into the twentieth century.

The object of much historical study, we know a great deal about the social, political and economic forces behind the creation and growth of asylums. Less is known or written, however, about the scientific endeavours and ideas that developed within them.

‘Asylum Science’ is intended as a hub for researchers interested in the scientific work conducted in asylums, a subject ripe for historical investigation. We hope the site, and our knowledge of asylum science, will continue to grow as new contributions to the subject develop.

We aim to challenge the view of asylums as scientifically-moribund backwaters, by placing  their activities, seemingly bizarre or problematic to modern eyes, within their historical context. We hope to understand how asylum patients were observed, treated, and transformed into subjects of scientific study. And by focussing on the uses and reception of science within asylums, we aim to shed new light on scientific research and understanding more generally in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Please follow the top menu links to find out more about this project.

Banner image: The West Riding Asylum pathological laboratory, 1890s. © West Yorkshire Archive Service, Wakefield.