Printing and periodical culture in the nineteenth-century asylum

Rights statement
Awarding institution
  • University of Strathclyde
Date of award
  • 2022
Thesis identifier
  • T16205
Person Identifier (Local)
  • 201887802
Qualification Level
Qualification Name
Department, School or Faculty
  • Throughout the nineteenth century, several mental institutions launched periodicals and newspapers, which were written and sometimes produced entirely by patients. This thesis is the first broader study of the phenomenon. Informed by new developments in book history and nineteenth-century periodical studies, it traces the origins, early development, and spread of the practice in Britain and America. It connects the rise of asylum periodicals with transatlantic trends in publishing, literary culture, and the treatment of madness and illuminates the social and print networks that facilitated the emergence and far-reaching circulation of the publications. Paying close attention to the relationships involved in their production, the thesis also highlights the role of print in self-expression, community building, and identity formation, by showing how patients employed these platforms to navigate their institutional reality and to communicate with each other and the outside world. The dissertation concentrates on printed periodicals launched in British and American asylums between 1836–1878. Relying on new transatlantic archival research, it presents five case studies of titles that have been overlooked (Chronicles of the Monastery, the Retreat Gazette, the Gartnavel Gazette, The Meteor, and Excelsior) and draws on examples from a wider range of asylum publications to identify patterns and variations. It also features a detailed list of all asylum periodicals known to have been launched before 1900, including the main repositories where these publications can be located. While acknowledging the limitations of asylum periodicals in representing institutional life, this thesis ultimately makes the case that they are embodiments of the complex interactions between the different actors that created them and of patients’ continuous active participation in print production and literary culture. As such, they are invaluable resources for historians, literary scholars, and mental health activists that offer new perspectives on mental institutions and their inhabitants.
Advisor / supervisor
  • Blair, Kirstie
  • Smith, Matthew, 1973-
Resource Type