'More like a maniac than a man': Broadmoor, Masculinity and the Experiences of the Criminally Insane, 1864-1900

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29 March 2012

Time: 6:00pm
Venue: Room 3.20, ArtsTwo Building, Mile End Campus, E1 4NS

Abstract: 'My manner of speech may be a little short and abrupt at times...but still I think that preferable to a man which seems to go down so well with the principal attendants.' This remark on manly etiquette was made in 1887 by John Wendover, a patient confined in Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum. In this paper, I use case studies of patients committed to Broadmoor between 1864 and 1900 to explore what was considered appropriate male behaviour from the point of view of the legal and medical professions, as well as Broadmoor’s patients. The Broadmoor archive has proven to be a surprising source on masculinity, and by using Annual Reports, Commissioner in Lunacy reports, correspondence between asylum staff, medical reports and patients’ letters, I add to current studies on Victorian manliness by examining the topic within the context of madness and crime. In the first half of the paper, I examine medical, legal and press reactions to paternal child-murderers, and examine depictions of insane convicts. In the second half of the paper, I focus on patients’ lives in Broadmoor. I consider medical officers’ diagnoses and descriptions of patients, and highlight what qualities patients, some of whom made direct references to what they considered a ‘real man’, believed essential to manliness.