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English pauper lunatics in the era of the old poor law

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Abstract

Many of those considered to be insane in the past were regarded as paupers and so came within the ambit of the poor law. Little work has yet been published on the ways in which the poor law dealt with the psychologically disturbed during the era of the old poor law (c.1601–1834). The present paper outlines the old poor law which said very little about madness as a specific problem, with the general implication that they were to be dealt with in the same way as others considered to be in need of relief. It appears that this was generally the case with the exception that the insane were sometimes sent to asylums. They were also liable to be treated as vagrants. Some limitations and problems with primary sources are also noted.

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