Institutionalisation in Irish History and Society

Part of the Palgrave Advances book series (PAD)


From 1750 to 1950, throughout Europe and elsewhere, institutions were identified as appropriate sites for the relief, segregation and containment of destitution, criminality, insanity, prostitution and disease. The period witnessed the rise and expansion of hospitals, prisons, workhouses, orphanages and other institutions. Ireland participated fully in this ‘great confinement’;1 the rural and urban landscape provides testimony to the presence of a range of institutions in every county. By 1900 significant sections of society were familiar with the confines of a variety of institutions and this propensity to incarcerate has continued into the twenty-first century. International writings by historians, sociologists and other academics have focused on explanations for the emergence and operation of these institutions. Explanatory frameworks encompass, among others, Whiggish reformist zeal, theories surrounding social control, professional ambition and Victorian sensibilities. In the Irish context, institutions and their development have received less attention. Although the nineteenth century possibly marks the zenith of institutional construction and confinement, Laurence Geary and Margaret Kelleher’s recent guide to nineteenth-century Historiography bears witness to the limited research or perhaps interest in the area.


Religious Order Irish Society Lunatic Asylum Great Famine Charitable Infirmary 
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© Catherine Cox 2009

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