Conference: Science in the asylum: patients, psychiatry, and the laboratory
19 October 2012, 10.30 - 5.30
Destiny Church, Wakefield (West Yorkshire)
Supported by the British Association for Victorian Studies (BAVS) (www.bavsuk.org), the Centre for the History of the Emotions (QMUL), and the University of Leeds.
Rising 'unmistakable and daunting out of the countryside', asylums were the nineteenth century's response to the issue of insanity. They have been the object of much historical study, and we consequently know a great deal about the social, political, and economic forces behind their creation and growth. Far less is known or written, however, about the scientific research that went on inside these institutions.
In utilising and developing new methods of medical research, one institution stood out amongst its peers. The West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum in Wakefield, founded in 1818, was by the end of the Victorian era a model of new 'scientific' psychiatry. From the 1870s onwards, work in the asylum's laboratory expanded knowledge in the fields of bacteriology and pathology; the late-nineteenth to early-twentieth century witnessed investigations into cerebral localisation, the establishment of an acute hospital, and a variety of attempts to uncover the physical origins of mental illness.
Using the West Riding as its starting point and taking place in the old asylum theatre, now used as a church, this one-day conference brings together researchers at various stages in their careers to highlight the importance of lab-based research to the wider history of psychiatry in Britain.
We welcome delegates from a wide range of disciplinary backgrounds whether historical, clinical, or stemming from personal interest. Ten postgraduate travel bursaries, funded by the BAVS, are available on a first come, first served basis: please contact the organisers for more information.