Minding the medicine and medicalising the mind: Investigating the cultural and social history of Cardiff city mental hospital 1908 - 1930.

  • Ian Beech

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis examines the cultural and social history of Cardiff City Mental Hospital during the tenure of its first medical superintendent, Dr Edwin Goodall. When the hospital opened in 1908 the asylum movement was at a low point with numbers increasing and recovery rates falling. In spite of this Cardiff's new asylum opened with a spirit of great optimism and a belief that
cures for mental disorders were possible.

Two primary sources, previously undiscovered, are analysed. The first, the Medical Superintendent Letter Books, are examined and enable insights into the relationship between Dr Goodall and staff within the hospital, society beyond the hospital gates, the Commissioners for Lunacy and Board of Control, the Visiting Committee and the Board of Guardians for Cardiff. The second, the King Edward VII Hospital outpatient notes, give information
about the foundation of an innovative approach to mental health care in the period outside of the confines of an asylum.

The thesis examines the hospital from a number of perspectives: The relationship between the institution and Cardiff as a city; the role of the medical superintendent; the research conducted and gender relations among patients and staff. It is found that the hospital played a role in Cardiff's portrayal of itself as the Welsh metropolis and was surrounded by a semipermeable membrane allowing passage in both directions between itself and the local community. The role of the superintendent is discovered to have
been one of negotiation and compromise rather than of authority. The research played little role in patient treatment yet was lauded by contemporaries but mostly lost to future generations. New light is shone on gender in terms of diagnosis of insanity and on the relationships between male and female staff.

The thesis lays bare the culture of the institution in the early twentieth century and adds much to our knowledge of care of the mentally disordered in this period.
Date of AwardAug 2011
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorMarcus Longley (Supervisor) & Andrew Croll (Supervisor)


  • Psychiatric hospitals
  • Wales
  • History
  • Mentally ill
  • Care

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