Madness in the Family: Insanity and Institutions in the by C. Coleborne

By C. Coleborne

Insanity within the family members explores how colonial households coped with madness via a trans-colonial research of the relationships among households and public colonial hospitals for the insane in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and New Zealand among 1860 and 1914.

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Extra info for Madness in the Family: Insanity and Institutions in the Australasian Colonial World, 1860–1914

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European women admitted to institutions were less likely than men to be discharged from the Calcutta Asylum in the first half of the nineteenth century. 20 Aside from these observations, the families of European patients confined in India in this period have not been examined in any depth by historians. The role of psychiatry in settler colonies was, as Sloan Mahone and Megan Vaughan point out, slightly different among histories of psychiatry and empire. 21 In South Africa, several institutions for the insane were established from the 1870s, with Robben Island established from 1846.

41 Some of these patients would, in the old countries, be housed in private establishments. 43 New South Wales was settled using male convict labour in 1788. An uneasy relationship with local aboriginal peoples was established, and European diseases including smallpox ravaged their population. As the colonists pushed northwards and into the west, frontier violence and conflict raged over subsequent decades, destroying most of the indigenous peoples’ links to their lands. By 1840, when New Zealand’s first settlers established rights over land, forming a treaty with Maori, there had already been around five decades of a serious European presence in this region of the southern hemisphere, with fledgling colonies growing up around Port Philip (Victoria after 1852), South Australia, Queensland (1859) and Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania after 1855).

The sample for this study shows that patients came from large geographical areas.. For instance, Goodna patients were from far north Queensland, and townships all along the coastline north of Brisbane; and patients at Gladesville came from Brisbane, Melbourne, Newcastle (north of Sydney) and from many smaller townships in New South Wales. Distance was important in determining the role families could play in institutional confinement and underlines the significance of correspondence between families and institutions, as later chapters of the book argue.

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