Thesis ID: CBB639073970

The Certification of Insanity: Local Origins and Global Consequences (2022)


Vicedo, Marga (Advisor)
Solovey, Mark (Advisor)
Sposini, Filippo Maria (Author)

Vicedo, Marga
Solovey, Mark
University of Toronto
Publication date: 2022
Language: English

Publication Date: 2022
Physical Details: 295

This dissertation explores the certification of insanity in the British empire during the second half of the nineteenth century. Considering a variety of legal, archival, and published sources, it traces the local origins and global dissemination of a peculiar method for determining lunacy defined as the “Victorian system”. Shaped by the dynamics surrounding the clandestine committal of wealthy Londoners in private madhouses, this system featured three distinctive tenets: standardized forms, independent medical examinations, and written facts of insanity. Despite their complexity, Victorian certificates achieved a remarkable success. Not only did they survive in the United Kingdom for more than a century, but they also served as a model for the development of mental health laws around the world. By the start of WWII, more than seventy colonial and non-colonial jurisdictions adopted the Victorian formula for making lunacy official with some countries still relying on it to this very day. Using case studies from Europe, the Americas, and the Pacific, this study charts the temporal and geographical trajectory of an imperial technology for deciding over a person’s destiny. Shifting the focus from metropolitan policies to colonial dynamics, from macro developments to micro histories, it looks at the perspective of families, doctors, and public officials as they came in touch with the delicate business of certification. Filling a gap in the literature, this study offers the first systematic attempt to study the certification of insanity from a comparative viewpoint. It claims that lunacy certificates had far-reaching consequences for individuals, medical science, and welfare policies. In particular, the spread of the Victorian system of certification exposed the lack of psychiatric expertise within the medical profession, it arranged a standardized procedure for determining mental derangement around the world, and informed mental health documents until the present.

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Authors & Contributors
Andrews, Jonathan
Baur, Nicole
Bhavsar, Vishal
Bhugra, Dinesh
Carson, John S.
Coleborne, Catharine
History of Psychiatry
Social History of Medicine
Endeavour: Review of the Progress of Science
Health and History
Historical Journal
History of the Human Sciences
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT
Bloomsbury Academic
Manchester University Press
WVT, Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier
Mental disorders and diseases
Psychiatric hospitals
Medicine and society
Bleuler, Eugen
George III, King of England
Time Periods
19th century
18th century
20th century
20th century, early
17th century
16th century
Great Britain
United States
Southeast Asia

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