‘We think considerable improvement should be made.’ Irish insanity and the Limerick District Lunatic Asylum, 1772-1900
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The focus of this thesis is the Limerick District Lunatic Asylum (LDLA hereafter), its interconnected institutions and the people who used them. Established in 1827, LDLA was Ireland’s first large-scale provincial district asylum established under the 1821 Lunacy (Ireland) Act. LDLA is an early and vitally important institution in the development of the District Asylum system. Though it echoes the treatments applied in other regional asylums, LDLA is in fact a flagship institution. As one of the first to experience the problems that bedevilled all Irish asylums – overcrowding, early problems with staffing, religious tensions, socio-economic pressures that were exerted on both the institution and the patient body – this thesis itself is an examination of an asylum that identifies and sets trends in Irish mental health history. An analysis of this institution’s surviving material forms the basis of this thesis offering an assessment of its ideological rationale and administrative operations. Through the lens of administrative files, snapshots of the active relationship with those receiving care are additionally provided. Some patient cases are used to explore key themes associated with asylum culture, thus allowing the local and individual experience to develop our understanding of Irish mental health care in the historical context. By emphasising the diversity of regional experiences and the significance of local contexts, this work demonstrates how Limerick is an underrepresented, yet very important site for analysis in the realm of mental health histories – it adds to our understanding of how the lunatic asylum was used by nineteenth century Irish society. Not only was treatment sought, it was expected.
KeywordsMental health history
District lunatic asylum