Books on asylums
November 26, 2007 2:56 PM   Subscribe

Help me find books about insane asylums/state hospitals.

I'm looking for some interesting books on the subject of asylums/mental hospitals from the 1700s-1920s in the U.S. and England. I prefer non-fiction, but wouldn't mind some very fact-heavy fiction.
posted by shwynn2 to Society & Culture (12 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
The obvious: Ten Days in a Mad-House
posted by kmennie at 3:00 PM on November 26, 2007

For illustrations:
posted by andreap at 3:08 PM on November 26, 2007

"Gracefully Insane" by Alex Beam is wonderful.
posted by tristeza at 3:20 PM on November 26, 2007

The Professor and the Madman is related to that topic.
posted by mpls2 at 3:22 PM on November 26, 2007

You want to be reading some Foucault, specifically "Madness and Civilization," "The Birth Of The Clinic," and parts of "Discipline And Punish."
posted by rhizome at 3:22 PM on November 26, 2007

The Three Christs of Ypsilanti
posted by Meatbomb at 3:44 PM on November 26, 2007

"Fingersmith" by Sarah Waters is great and has a large portion set in an asylum in the 1860s.
posted by emyd at 3:48 PM on November 26, 2007

I have a copy of Masters of Bedlam around here somewhere, but I've never gotten around to reading it.

Seconding The Three Christs of Ypsilanti, with the caveat that it falls outside of the time period you're looking for. It takes place in the 1950s, if memory serves.

(Fun trivia: The Three Christs was a partial inspiration for Peter Barnes' The Ruling Class.)
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 4:48 PM on November 26, 2007

Check out: The Turning Point: How Men of Conscience Brought about Major Change in the Care of America's Mentally Ill.

I lived in Logansport, Indiana, in a previous life. The Logansport State Hospital, founded in 1888, is still a major employer there. Check out their wikipedia entry for more information:

Mmm, lobotomy ...
posted by momzilla at 4:50 PM on November 26, 2007

A Mind That Found Itself, was instrumental in changed the way these institutions were operated.

You want to be reading some Foucault

You said nonfiction. Foucault ends up being more about madness in Shakespeare and such, more relevant to literary and cultural constructs than to real life.
posted by StickyCarpet at 5:24 PM on November 26, 2007

Don't know if this is at all useful, but here are web sites re US asylums -- many photos, some history:

The Lives They Left Behind: Suitcases from a State Hospital Attic

What They Left Behind: Suitcases from an insane asylum tell of lives long lost (Village Voice article on suitcases exhibit) (New York State -- Willard Psychiatric Center)

The Georgia Story: How to Successfully Restore a State Hospital Cemetery (Central State Hospital at Milledgeville (formerly Georgia State Lunatic Asylum))

Against Forgetting
In 2000, a group called the Grave Concerns Association came together to build awareness and respect for those with psychiatric disabilities by restoring, enhancing and maintaining the markers at the hospital's historic cemetery. (Washington State -- Western State Hospital)

American "Insane Asylum" History: Giving Names To Numbered Graves (Massachusetts - Danvers State Hospital (aka Danvers State Insane Asylum))

Oregon State Hospital Patient Memorial -- 1

Oregon State Hospital Patient Memorial -- 2

Miscellaneous sites on institutions:

More on Danvers -- 1, 2 (piece about memorial), 3 (creepy video)

Essex Sanatorium (Massachusetts)

Metropolitan State Hospital (Massachusetts)

Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital (New Jersey)

Asylums of New York (Binghamton, Buffalo, Utica, Willard)

Manteno State Hospital (Illinois)

The Ladd School (Rhode Island, formerly Rhode Island School for the Feeble Minded))

Massachusetts Mental Health Center (formerly Southard Clinic) -- click on photo gallery
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 6:48 PM on November 26, 2007 [2 favorites]

A hundred years before the "men of conscience" momzilla linked there was a woman named Dorothea Dix who arguably did more to create mental asylums and improve conditions for the mentally ill in the United States than any other single individual - as in, she was personally responsible for the creation of asylums in almost 20 different states.

Voice for the Mad: The Life of Dorothea Dix looks to be the best-reviewed book about her; here's a few others.
posted by mediareport at 8:01 PM on November 26, 2007

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