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Death and the dead-house in Victorian asylums: necroscopy versus mourning at the Royal Edinburgh Asylum, c. 1832-1901

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Jonathan Andrews

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Abstract

This article examines the management and meaning of post-mortem examinations, and the spatial ordering of patients' death, dissection and burial at the Victorian asylum, referencing a range of institutional contexts and exploiting a case study of the Royal Edinburgh Asylum. The routinizing of dissection and the development of the dead-house from a more marginal asylum sector to a lynchpin of laboratory medicine is stressed. External and internal pressure to modernize pathological research facilities is assessed alongside governmental, public and professional critiques of variable necroscopy practices. This is contextualized against wider issues and attitudes surrounding consent and funereal rituals. Onus is placed on tendencies in anatomizing insanity towards the conversion of deceased lunatics - pauper lunatics especially - into mere pathological specimens. On the other hand, significant but compromised resistance on the part of a minority of practitioners, relatives and the wider public is also identified.


Publication metadata

Author(s): Andrews J

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: History of Psychiatry

Year: 2012

Volume: 23

Issue: 1

Pages: 6-26

Print publication date: 01/03/2012

ISSN (print): 0957-154X

ISSN (electronic): 1740-2360

Publisher: Sage Publications Ltd.

URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0957154X11432242

DOI: 10.1177/0957154X11432242


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