An archaeology of lunacy

Managing madness in early nineteenth-century asylums

By Katherine Fennelly

An archaeology of lunacy


  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-2649-8
  • Pages: 200
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £85.00
  • Published Date: July 2019
  • BIC Category: Industrial archaeology, History of medicine, Early 19th century c 1800 to c 1850, Care of the mentally ill, MEDICAL / History, History of Medicine, Medicine / History of medicine, Industrial Archaeology, Archaeology, United Kingdom, Great Britain, Ireland, Humanities / Archaeology, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Archaeology
  • Series: Social Archaeology and Material Worlds


An archaeology of lunacy is a materially focused exploration of the first wave of public asylum building in Britain and Ireland, which took place during the late-Georgian and early Victorian period. Examining architecture and material culture, the book proposes that the familiar asylum archetype, usually attributed to the Victorians, was in fact developed much earlier. It looks at the planning and construction of the first public asylums and assesses the extent to which popular ideas about reformed management practices for the insane were applied at ground level. Crucially, it moves beyond doctors and reformers, repopulating the asylum with the myriad characters that made up its everyday existence: keepers, clerks and patients. Contributing to archaeological scholarship on institutions of confinement, the book is aimed at academics, students and general readers interested in the material environment of the historic lunatic asylum.


'In this book Katherine Fennelly provides one of the first glimpses into the world of early lunatic asylums in Ireland and England. [. it] is an interesting, scholarly study of a field of growing interest among academics and the general public. It is well worth reading.'

'An Archaeology of Lunacy
is a modest but useful addition to the literature on the peculiar world of the nineteenth- century asylum.'
Andrew Scull, Victorian Studies


1 Introduction
2 Management
3 Administration
4 Movement
5 Conclusions


Katherine Fennelly is Lecturer in Heritage at the University of Lincoln

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