Madness and public policy from the 18th century
This chapter provides the essential background against which the scandals that took place in mental-health institutions in Britain during the 1960s and 1970s can be understood and assessed. In particular, it examines madness and public policy in the country since the eighteenth century. Scandals are the product of culturally and historically specific reactions to particular events. Such events are themselves shaped by the social-policy context within which services are provided in any era. The chapter looks at the key currents running through the social-welfare world that produced the first major institutional scandal of modern times – that at Ely Hospital in Cardiff, Wales. In order to understand such events, however, the chapter discusses the roots of mental-health policy over a longer period. It also focuses on the inmates of the Victorian asylums as the product of family life, the confinement of a family member in a mental asylum, the medicalisation of madness, and arrangements for the community care of mentally ill people.
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