The Asylum, the Poor Law, and a Reassessment of the Four-Shilling Grant: Admissions to the County Asylums of Yorkshire in the Nineteenth Century

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Abstract

In the mid-1870s, the British government introduced a grant that transferred a proportion of the cost of asylum care from local to central funds. Typically, this has been seen by contemporary and more recent commentators as part of the explanation for the therapeutic failure of the County and Borough Asylums, and for their degeneration into custodial institutions. Building on recent work on the Poor Law, the aim of this article is to reassess the impact of the grant using both quantitative and qualitative evidence. Contrasting the records of two County Asylums with the annual reports of the Lunacy Commissioners, it shows that there is little evidence to suggest that the grant was responsible for a change in either the size or composition of the asylum population. Ultimately, it argues that the admission of patients in general, and the admission and discharge of chronic cases in particular, rested with longer-term factors than simply the introduction of one fiscal incentive.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-71
Number of pages17
JournalSocial History of Medicine
Volume19
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2006

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