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Emily Andrews


'Senility before Alzheimer: Old age in British psychiatry, 1835-1912'

That's the title of my PhD, which I finished in June this year. It's sort of a history of senile dementia. It looks at how the Victorians categorised, understood, and cared for mental illness and deterioration in old age.

I have spent the last four years at Warwick, researching and writing about senility in the nineteenth century, talking about dementia in the twenty-first century, and teaching modern world history to undergraduates.

The 'dementia crisis' looms large over the new millenium. I wanted to know how mental disorder in old age was understood and responded to before the fear of the ‘demographic time-bomb’ came into play.

Stages of life (1832) -  Pyramidal Cells (1884) - Old Age at Westminster Union (1877)

You might recently have seen me talking about old age, dementia and the asylum on ITV's Secrets of Asylum, which is currently available online.

Secrets of the Asylum

What did ‘senile dementia’ mean to the Victorians? What other concepts and terms did they use to explain and describe mental disorder in old age? How were the people experiencing these disorders (particularly the poor) responded to by friends and relatives, by doctors, and by policy makers? Why and how were old people admitted to asylums? How did their families and the people around them feel about what was happening? These are some of the questions which my thesis explores.

For more about me, my interests and experience, see my Personal and Professional Profile.