In Victorian times, mentally ill people were placed into lunatic asylums, where they would be held, studied and sometimes experimented upon in the hopes of furthering scientific knowledge of the mind. The Victorian definition of insanity might include many illnesses, conditions and types of behaviour that today are better understood or treatable, such as post-natal depression or epilepsy. Antisocial or immoral behaviour might also sometimes be considered ‘insane.’
Patients were not considered to have the same rights as ‘sane’ people, and the asylums could be brutal, depressing places. Victorian lunatic asylums often feature in modern horror fiction. Find out more about lunatic asylums here.