Committed to the State Asylum

Committed to the State Asylum: Insanity and Society in Nineteenth-Century Quebec and Ontario

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    Committed to the State Asylum
    Book Description:

    Unlike other studies, Committed to the State Asylum shows the important role that the community played in shaping the asylum and tackles the thorny issue of state development, explaining how state asylums developed differently in each province. He considers Canada?s pioneering institutional efforts at dealing with the criminally insane and why those efforts lasted only a short time, shedding new light on the debate about the nature and extent of state involvement in nineteenth-century Canadian society.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6883-9
    Subjects: Health Sciences

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Interpreting Sophie’s World
    (pp. 3-12)

    By the spring of 1853 Sophie Mercier’s behaviour had become alarming to her family and neighbours. Sophie, wife to Francois Dussault and mother of several children, was about thirty-eight years old and lived in the parish of St Jean Baptiste des Ecureuils in Canada East. Over the previous few months her family and her parish priest had noticed that she was exhibiting an unhealthy obsession with religion, and her husband had come to believe that she posed a physical threat to their children.

    The apparent mental breakdown of Sophie Mercier was critical for the whole family. Given the onerous duties...

  5. 1 Manipulating a Monopoly: The State and the “Farming-Out System” in Quebec
    (pp. 13-47)

    A form of institutional care and treatment of the insane developed in nineteenth-century Quebec that was known by its contemporaries as the “farming-out” system. The farming-out system resulted from the interactions of the provincial state, with its concerns about the costs of asylum provision, and a group of Quebec physicians, driven by professional and proprietary ambitions. The farming-out arrangements reached between the state and these physicians, the proprietors of Quebec's first permanent lunatic asylum at Beauport, were quickly consolidated into a monopoly in the asylum care of the insane.

    Once established, this state-sanctioned medical monopoly became firmly entrenched in Quebec....

  6. 2 Insanity, Community and Commissioner: The State and the Government System in Ontario
    (pp. 48-76)

    In his study of the history of the hospital in the United States, Charles Rosenberg points out the “inconsistent visions” of hospital physicians and trustees in the nineteenth century. He notes that although trustee and physician agreed “on matters of class definition and the social styles appropriate to these definitions” as they pertained to the hospital, disputes between them frequently resulted from the physician’s more medical conception of hospital practice.¹

    In the lunatic asylums of nineteenth-century Ontario, inconsistent visions also existed among medical superintendent, asylum commissioner, and, later, asylum inspector. But the conflicts that arose between medical and lay officials...

  7. 3 Medicine, Moral Therapy, and Madness in Nineteenth-Century Quebec and Ontario
    (pp. 77-112)

    The study of moral treatment and its institutional expression, the lunatic asylum, has been of central importance to historians of nineteenth-century psychiatry. In an ongoing historiographical debate, historians, historical sociologists, philosophers, and historically minded psychiatrists have argued over the significance of the conjuncture of asylum development, moral treatment, and the professionalization of psychiatry.¹ The focus of most of these histories has been the rise and development of the asylum and asylum medicine, while other socio-medical means of treatment of the insane have been neglected. In works where pre- and nonasylum forms of medical treatment and diagnosis of insanity are acknowledged,...

  8. 4 Wanderer, Pauper, and Prisoner: The Social, Economic, and Political Contexts of Committal
    (pp. 113-140)

    Towards the end of July, 1852, James Hardey, a farmer at Niagara Falls, was approached by a young woman he had never before seen. Hardey described her as “most pitiable ... being weakened by dysentery and loathsome with vermin.” Her behaviour was “sometimes quiet, and sometimes quite outrageous.” Not having the heart to drive the stranger off “in such a state,” Hardey took her in and kept her for five weeks while he tried to locate her family. After the woman told him that her father ran a tavern in Dunville, Hardey wrote to her father informing him of his...

  9. 5 Criminal Insanity: The Creation and Dissolution of a Psychiatric Disorder
    (pp. 141-166)

    The brief attempt to medicalize criminal insanity in nineteenth-century Ontario and Quebec highlights the complex interaction of community, state, and psychiatric interests in the process of asylum development. This chapter explores the historical circumstances that led to criminal insanity’s classification as a distinct disease entity. The Kingston Penitentiary and the Rockwood Criminal Lunatic Asylum, became the settings for a series of debates and critical incidents focusing on criminal insanity.¹

    In the early years of the century, criminal lunatics were not seen as a social problem of major concern. By mid-century, however, a crisis had emerged in the Kingston Penitentiary over...

  10. Re-evaluating the Asylum, the State, and the Management of Insanity
    (pp. 167-172)

    In Quebec and Ontario the state played a major role in the social history of the asylum. Lunatic asylums in both provinces gradually became part of a bureaucratized institutional network presided over by the Inspectorate of Prisons, Asylums and Public Charities in 1859, and by separate state inspectorates for each province after Confederation. State involvement in institutions for the management and treatment of the insane was an aspect of a larger project of developing statehood in mid-nineteenth-century Canada encompassing educational and penal reform along with efforts to police and regulate other aspects of social life.¹

    The historical influence of the...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 173-214)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 215-222)
  13. Index
    (pp. 223-226)