Long before the NHS, those who did not fit ‘the norm’ were consigned to workhouses or to private lunatic asylums. The latter provided a profitable business opportunity, as the wealthy were only too keen to offload family members whose behaviour was inconvenient. It was a system open to abuses that Daniel Defoe and others were keen to expose.
In the Fishponds area of Bristol, one family lived off the proceeds for more than a century. The revealing tale of ‘Mason’s Madhouses’ explains what life was like in such institutions, uncovers the techniques employed to cure or control the inmates, tells the stories of the main players, and recounts the sensational public inquiry that brought a dynasty down.
An important contribution to the history of Bristol and of mental health provision in the region.
Dr. Leonard Smith, Honorary Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Applied Health Research, University of Birmingham
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