War, Health and Welfare: the Convergence of Mental Health and General Health Policy, 1939–48

  • Tom Butler


The first three chapters of this study gave an account of the part played by lunacy policy in the emergence of government regulation up to end of the nineteenth century and governmental intervention in the early part of the twentieth century. It was argued that lunatics were initially regarded as a subgroup of the poor, but by the middle of the nineteenth century there emerged specialised medical provision for the mad. The lunacy issue appeared as a peripheral nuisance for many eighteenth- and nineteenth-century legislators. However, the emergence of a national lunacy policy by 1845 provided for an expansion of government activity in a period in which laissez-faire was a virtue. The lunacy laws played a significant part in the transformation of the relationship between local and central government through the formal codes of statute law. In addition, the adoption of a state policy on madness through the lunacy laws allowed for the professionalisation of mental medicine and the rise of an occupational group officially recognised as experts on insanity. The coexistence of law and medicine within the asylum setting characterised the approach to the insane up to 1939. The lunacy issues of the first fifty years of the nineteeth century were curiously echoed in the first thirty years of the twentieth century.


Mental Health Mental Health Service Local Authority National Health Service Central Government 
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Notes and References

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Copyright information

© Tom Butler 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tom Butler
    • 1
  1. 1.GloucesterUK

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