Published histories of madness have commonly cited inhumane practices in early English mental institutions as a negative baseline for judging subsequent management of lunacy, though adequate primary research on these institutions has been lacking. This raises the questions, pursued in this research project, as to how these institutions actually functioned, and what their governors saw as their role? The project examines the formation, maintenance, dissemination and practical expression of the ethos of the governors of early institutions for lunatics using material from the archives of all English public institutions for the mad founded up to 1765, supplemented by additional contextual information collected at the same time. The geographical and temporal limits of the sample were imposed because of the volume of material involved, and in order to focus on the period inadequately researched in published histories.
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