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Hist Psychiatry. 2004 Jun;15(58 Pt 2):177-92.

Prisoner or patient? The official debate on the criminal lunatic in nineteenth-century Ireland.

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  • 1School of Sociology and Social Policy, The Queen's University of Belfast, Belfast BT7 1NN, Northern Ireland. Email:


Nineteenth-century Ireland was colonized and strictly controlled from Britain. In this highly regulated society, reports of the Inspectorate of Lunacy in Ireland were used to express an official medical view on cirminal lunacy. This view was based on experiences gained in the Central Criminal Lunatic Asylum for Ireland, opened at Dundrum in 1820. This paper will examine some of the ideas expressed in these reports, including views on the treatment of criminal lunatics, on their potential for dangerous behaviour, and on emigration as a form of after-care.

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