Lunatic asylums in the colonies in the nineteenth century mirrored those of ‘home’, in Britain. But in a European settler context, the administration and policies of the asylums, and the treatment of their patients, took on many different nuances.
There was a complex interface between lunacy legislation, colonial government, families and communities, and the ways in which these elements affected individuals’ experiences of treatment before and after committal to a lunatic asylum. This book breaks new ground in tracing the route of people thought to be ‘of unsound mind’ from their homes and families to eventual committal to a lunatic asylum in the Cape Colony in the late nineteenth century.
A major theme which links each chapter is the movement of the insane in search of care: in and out of jails, asylums and families; in and out of the colony by land or sea; and their journeys by ship, cart, train or horse.
The management of the insane in the Cape Colony, and the legal and medical institutions with primary responsibility for delivering humane care to this intensely vulnerable group, give a unique perspective on the workings of colonialism itself.