Scottish-Jewish 'madness'?: An examination of Jewish admissions to the royal asylums of Edinburgh and Glasgow, c.1870-1939

Sarg, Cristin M. (2017) Scottish-Jewish 'madness'?: An examination of Jewish admissions to the royal asylums of Edinburgh and Glasgow, c.1870-1939. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis sits at the junction of asylum history and Anglo-Jewish history, specifically Scottish Jewish history, and contributes new perspectives to scholarship on histories of both psychiatry and Anglo-Jewry. It explores the lived experiences of Jewish patients admitted to the royal asylums of Edinburgh and Glasgow between 1870 and 1939 using a range of both quantitative and qualitative archival sources. A discussion of the relevant literature that has focused on ‘Anglo’ asylums and Anglo-Jewry, particularly on Scottish asylums and Scottish Jewry, provides the historical context for the research questions being asked about how Jewish patients admitted to the royal asylums were understood, diagnosed and treated. The quantitative Jewish patient population is presented, discussing: demographic variables such as gender distribution, age at admission and the patient’s marital status at admission; social variables such as ‘class’ as regards a patient’s accommodation within the asylum and their occupation; diagnostic variables such as the mental disorders identified; and finally institutional variables such as a patient’s discharge status and the length of a patient’s stay within the asylum. This Jewish patient profile is compared to control samples of non-Jewish patients to detect similarities and differences between the two groups, providing scope for the qualitative accounts that follow. Qualitative sources are then used, pulling out a number of individual case histories as detailed exemplars of broader claims, spread across three substantial chapters. The first qualitative chapter draws on several of the themes presented in the discussion of relevant literature, such as matters of Jewish demography, migration, family dynamics, social standing, cultural experiences and the like, as these intersect with the ‘asylum lifecycle’, meaning periods spent in and outside of the asylum by these patients. This material opens a door to the Jewish patient experience through the discussion and analysis of several themes, such as: family, community, immigration status, social class, migration histories, big and small and the asylum lifecycle with respect to patients who experienced multiple admissions to asylums. The next chapter’s overarching theme is the Jewish body – all aspects of Jewish embodiment; of embodying Jewishness – in the asylum. This theme is further broken down into specific areas for discussion, such as: the male Jewish body; poisoning, because historically Jews have been associated with the act of poisoning; the diagnostic criteria as it was applied to Jews during the period under investigation; the role of language within the clinical encounter; and troublesome patients. The goal here is to illustrate how the Jewish body was often seen as inherently different from other (British) asylum patients and therefore pathologised because of those differences, such that in certain situations merely being Jewish suggested a likelihood of being mentally unstable and possessing a mental illness due to the Jewishness association. The final qualitative chapter concentrates on Jewish women and their experiences within Scottish asylums, highlighting some of the gendered differences within that experience when compared to the male Jewish experience of madness that was primarily tackled in the previous chapter. This chapter discuses Jewish women and their place within the Jewish community and wider Anglo-Scottish society, and further it addresses the perceived close relationship between Jewish women and mental illness, itself complicated by the extent to which the woman concerned sought to live up to a vision of the perfect Jewish mother while also being judged through an idealized version of domestically content British (middle-class) womanly reserve. Final conclusions are added which summarise the contributions made by the thesis, and speculate about further inquires that might be conducted in this field.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: 19th & 20th Centuries, Scottish, Jewish, psychiatry, madness, migration, asylums, Royal asylums, Glasgow Royal Asylum, Gartnavel Royal Asylum, Royal Edinburgh Asylum.
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BL Religion
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BM Judaism
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > G Geography (General)
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
Colleges/Schools: College of Science and Engineering > School of Geographical and Earth Sciences > Geography
Supervisor's Name: Philo, Professor Christopher and McGeachan, Dr. Cheryl
Date of Award: 2017
Depositing User: Cristin M. Sarg
Unique ID: glathesis:2017-8496
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 01 Nov 2017 10:50
Last Modified: 08 Nov 2017 08:43

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