Prisoners or Patients? Listen online.

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This is a 50 minute audio file of a talk I delivered at the National Records of Scotland on 7 August 2019, in connection with my hugely successful exhibition that they kindly hosted: ‘Prisoners or Patients? Criminal Insanity in Victorian Scotland’. It explains the records I used and the development of the criminal justice system’s attempts to deal with those who had committed serious offences, but were found to be insane and thus not responsible for their actions. The justice system faced the same problems as today and dealt with ‘prisoner-patients’ or ‘state lunatics’ (as they were known) in a remarkably humane fashion, given the constraints of limited resources, basic medicine, and different social attitudes 150 years ago. The talk explains in depth who the offenders were and what they had done, the processes for admission to, and release from the only such specialist facility in Scotland prior to the opening of The State Hospital at Carstairs in 1948, medical and scientific understandings of insanity, and the social context of Victorian Scotland.

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