Life in the Victorian Asylum by Mark Stevens

‘What we offer in return for your co-operation is the very latest in lunatic healthcare.’

Have you ever wondered what it might be like to be in a Victorian asylum? The first part of this book is set out as a patient manual: what you need to know if you were being admitted.  Highly informative: there’s information about accommodation, diagnosis, staff, the daily routine and treatment.

‘You may find it so comforting that you never leave.’

Part two includes a history of Victorian asylums, and the author writes that he used a small asylum (the Moulsford Asylum in Berkshire) as the model for ’the workings of a public asylum as it operated during the last three decades of Queen Victoria’s life.’ 

Part two also includes some brief pen portraits of some of the patients admitted to Moulsford, and a note about how Broadmoor (the UK’s criminal asylum) differs.

If you are interested in the history of asylums and the treatment of mental illness in the nineteenth century, you may find this book as interesting as I did.  In some ways (and for some cases) nineteenth century treatment was much more enlightened than I expected.  This is a republication of a book first published in 2014.

Note: My thanks to NetGalley and Pen and Sword for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes. 

Jennifer Cameron-Smith