SOAS Research Online

A Free Database of the Latest Research by SOAS Academics and PhD Students

[skip to content]

Ernst, Waltraud R. M. (1986) Psychiatry and Colonialism: The Treatment of European Lunatics in British India, 1800-1858. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

PDF - Submitted Version
Download (12MB) | Preview


This is a study of the transfer of European concepts of mental illness to India and of the concomitant transplantation of specialized institutions for the confinement and treatment of the mentally ill to a colonial society. Government policies will be analysed in relation to British attempts to control the deviant behaviour of Europeans in India and to guarantee the maintenance of the imperial power structure by keeping social distance between the various classes and races of Anglo-Indian and Indian society. The emergence of psychiatry as a medical discipline, the humanitarian campaigns and subsequent legislation for reformed asylum management and the establishment of large-scale public institutions for the insane in Britain will be set against developments in the presidencies in Bengal, Madras and Bombay. The specific history of the 'Lunatic Asylums for the European Insane' in Calcutta, Madras and Bombay respectively will be analysed in relation to the various presidencies' social conditions and politico-ideological orientations. The involvement of medical experts, private madhouse-owners and public boards of inspection in the management of the three main institutions will be evaluated and compared. An attempt will be made to assess the condition of asylum inmates of different social and racial backgrounds and to reconstruct the diagnostic and therapeutic concepts and methods used by various asylum superintendents. Asylum statistics will be compiled for the Calcutta Asylum and reference to specific cases and to details of institutional arrangements for patients will be made for the Bombay Asylum.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 12 Oct 2020 17:21

Altmetric Data


Download activity - last 12 monthsShow export options
Downloads since deposit
6 month trend
6 month trend
Accesses by country - last 12 monthsShow export options
Accesses by referrer - last 12 monthsShow export options

Repository staff only

Edit Item Edit Item