Send to

Choose Destination
Stud Hist Philos Biol Biomed Sci. 2008 Sep;39(3):326-37. doi: 10.1016/j.shpsc.2008.06.006. Epub 2008 Aug 15.

'An aid to mental health': natural history, alienists and therapeutics in Victorian Scotland.

Author information

School of Geography, Archaeology and Palaeoecology, Queen's University, Belfast BT7 1NN, UK.


In the nineteenth century natural history was widely regarded as a rational and 'distracting' pursuit that countered the ill-effects, physical and mental, of urban life. This familiar argument was not only made by members of naturalists' societies but was also borrowed and adapted by alienists concerned with the moral treatment of the insane. This paper examines the work of five long-serving superintendents in Victorian Scotland and uncovers the connections made between an interest in natural history and the management of mental disease. In addition to recovering a significant influence on the conduct of several alienists the paper explores arguments made outside the asylum walls in favour of natural history as an aid to mental health. Investigating the promotion of natural history as a therapeutic recreation in Scotland and elsewhere reveals more fully the moral and cultural significance attached to natural history pursuits in the nineteenth century.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center