This article explores how the medicalization of poverty in 19th-century aetiologies of insanity provided the basis for which the Northampton General Lunatic Asylum became an option for the relief and treatment of the poor. It is argued that the poor, their communities and poor law officials, by being key to the process of committal, were partially responsible for the asylum population and the role that the asylum played in the local community. The article explores how important poverty was in asylum admissions and, from an analysis of the length of stay of those entering the asylum, the number of patients for whom the asylum provided short-term respite. Using case histories of patients, the article argues for the asylum to be seen as part of the poor law process that discriminated between the deserving and undeserving poor.
Smith, C. (2006). Family, community and the Victorian asylum: a case study of the Northampton General Lunatic Asylum and its pauper lunatics. Family & Community History, 9(2), 109–124. https://doi.org/10.1179/175138106x146133