Pauper insanity within Victorian Leicester: the Experience of the Leicester Borough Lunatic Asylum, 1870 to 1890

Laverick, Carrie (2019). Pauper insanity within Victorian Leicester: the Experience of the Leicester Borough Lunatic Asylum, 1870 to 1890. Student dissertation for The Open University module A826 MA History part 2.

This dissertation was produced by a student studying the Open University postgraduate module A826 MA History part 2. The research showcased here achieved a distinction.
Please note that this student dissertation is made available in the format that it was submitted for examination, thus the author has not been able to correct errors and/or departures from academic standards in areas such as referencing.
Copyright resides with the author.


The Leicester Borough Lunatic Asylum opened in 1869 to accommodate the ever increasing number of pauper insane within Victorian Leicester. This study will explore the potential reasons for the supposed increase and will try to ascertain any social and economic prerequisites that conditioned insane behaviour within this population which led to their care being sought in the asylum system rather than within the community.

Historiography dictates that there were high numbers of paupers certified as insane during the nineteenth century, but the probable cause was not necessarily limited to a physical or biological concern. Many were not deemed to have a physical ailment that caused their insanity, with scores being deemed to be insane due to presumed moral causes. The definition and factors which constituted probable moral and physical causes altered throughout the century and depended on variables such as the changing definition of insanity, the changing view of the pauper, as well as the changes in the perception of social and economic limitations that led to a pauper becoming insane. Pauper insanity arguably became more visible toward the end of the century, reflecting the increase in accurate recording and an increase in the awareness of the plight of the pauper lunatic.

The study concludes that there were indeed increases in admissions to the Leicester Borough Lunatic Asylum but that this was not necessarily due to an actual increase in insanity within the pauper population in Leicestershire. It can be shown that there was an increased usage of asylum provision which explains a growing acceptance of the asylum system rather than a marked increase in insanity in the borough of Leicester.

Viewing alternatives

Download history

Item Actions