Mental Health in Historical Perspective
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Investigating the Body in the Victorian Asylum

Doctors, Patients, and Practices

Authors: Wallis, Jennifer

  • Received an Honourable Mention in the 2019 European Association for the History of Medicine and Health Book Awards
  • Explores the asylum beyond simply an institution of socio-demographic interest, but also as an experimental space
  • Brings together the history of psychiatry with the history of the body by examining the ways in which the body was investigated within the asylum
  • Utilises an innovative structure mirroring the contemporary process of dissection in the asylum to explore everyday psychiatric practices
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  • ISBN 978-3-319-56714-3
  • This book is an open access book, you can download it for free on link.springer.com
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Softcover $31.00
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About this book

This book is open access under a CC BY 4.0 license.

This book explores how the body was investigated in the late nineteenth-century asylum in Britain. As more and more Victorian asylum doctors looked to the bodily fabric to reveal the ‘truth’ of mental disease, a whole host of techniques and technologies were brought to bear upon the patient's body. These practices encompassed the clinical and the pathological, from testing the patient's reflexes to dissecting the brain.

Investigating the Body in the Victorian Asylum takes a unique approach to the topic, conducting a chapter-by-chapter dissection of the body. It considers how asylum doctors viewed and investigated the skin, muscles, bones, brain, and bodily fluids. The book demonstrates the importance of the body in nineteenth-century psychiatry as well as how the asylum functioned as a site of research, and will be of value to historians of psychiatry, the body, and scientific practice.

About the authors

Jennifer Wallis is Lecturer in Cultural and Intellectual History at Queen Mary University of London, UK, where she teaches courses on the history of psychiatry, the body, and nineteenth-century Britain. Her work has previously been published in History of Psychiatry and Medical Humanities, among others. 

Reviews

“Investigating the Body in the Victorian Asylum offers a genuine, innovative, and interdisciplinary analysis of the patient’s body within the asylum setting. The rigorous research and the accessible nature of this book together make it a perfect read for anyone, from the undergraduate to the experienced scholar, who is interested in the history of psychiatry in the late nineteenth century and the practice of medical and scientific research at the time.” (Cristiano Turbil, Isis, Vol. 111 (1), 2020)

“Jennifer Wallis’s Investigating Body in the Victorian Asylum: Doctors, Patients, and Practices, part of the Mental Health in Historical Perspective series sets to demonstrate how asylum doctors sought to locate mental illness on the body. … Overall, Wallis’s work provides a fresh, important, and much-needed contribution to the history of psychiatry, the body, and medicine more broadly.” (Lynsey Cullen, H-Net Reviews Humanities and Social Sciences, networks.h-net.org, August, 2018)


“Investigating the Body in the Victorian Asylum provides a meticulously researched and thoroughly readable – for all – social history of an important development in the mental sciences in the nineteenth century, centring it around the evolving practices of post-mortem examinations. I particularly like the way in which Wallis writes herself, her research process and her thinking into the book.” (Louise Hide, HHS History of The Human Sciences, histhum.com, August, 2018)

“This book is a valuable contribution to a number of overlapping fields; historians of psychiatry and of science, historical geographers and medical humanists will find inspiration in the way this work delves into a dimension of asylumdom underexplored within the literature. … an indispensable resource for historians of science. … this work will engage interested scholars at various stages of academia, from undergraduate students and postgraduate researchers to experienced course convenors.” (Sarah Phelan, Journal of Historical Geography, Iss. 1-2, 2018)
“A highly original and stimulating approach to the history of psychiatry. It is likely to be added to a whole range of reading lists, including the histories of medicine, psychiatry and the body. I will certainly be adding it to mine.” (Gayle Davis, Senior Lecturer in the History of Medicine, University of Edinburgh, UK)

Table of contents (6 chapters)

Table of contents (6 chapters)
  • Introduction

    Pages 1-19

    Wallis, Jennifer

  • Skin

    Pages 21-59

    Wallis, Jennifer

  • Muscle

    Pages 61-99

    Wallis, Jennifer

  • Bone

    Pages 101-139

    Wallis, Jennifer

  • Brain

    Pages 141-179

    Wallis, Jennifer

Buy this book

eBook  
  • ISBN 978-3-319-56714-3
  • This book is an open access book, you can download it for free on link.springer.com
Hardcover $31.00
price for USA
Softcover $31.00
price for USA

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Bibliographic Information

Bibliographic Information
Book Title
Investigating the Body in the Victorian Asylum
Book Subtitle
Doctors, Patients, and Practices
Authors
Series Title
Mental Health in Historical Perspective
Copyright
2017
Publisher
Palgrave Macmillan
Copyright Holder
The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s)
eBook ISBN
978-3-319-56714-3
DOI
10.1007/978-3-319-56714-3
Hardcover ISBN
978-3-319-56713-6
Softcover ISBN
978-3-319-85981-1
Series ISSN
2634-6036
Edition Number
1
Number of Pages
XVI, 276
Number of Illustrations
9 b/w illustrations
Topics