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SQUALOR, SCANDAL AND CIVILISING MISSION: Institutional Provision for the Insane in the British Caribbean, 1815-1914

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Location: R0.14 Ramphal building

Seminar with Dr Leonard Smith, University of Birmingham and mental health services professional.

A joint event with the Yesu Persaud Centre for Caribbean Studies.

Refreshments served. All are welcome.

Over recent years there has been growing historical interest in insanity and institutions for the insane in most parts of the former British Empire. However, little attention has hitherto been devoted to the West Indian colonies, with their singularly painful experiences of African enslavement, emancipation, continuing economic exploitation, and social division. photo of people in lunatic asylum in Barbados early C20
As elsewhere in the empire, provision for mentally disordered people in the Caribbean was largely influenced by developments in Britain, although the relative paucity of resources devoted by colonial governments ensured that institutional development lagged well behind what occurred in the metropole. The consequence was a quite mixed picture, both geographically and temporally. This paper will illustrate the marked variations by considering several separate episodes, relating to Jamaica, Barbados, Guyana and Trinidad. These examples highlight a spectrum of institutional conditions and practices ranging from the squalid and frankly abusive to the relatively enlightened, and the transformations that occurred in some colonies.
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