Thank you for all the comments. I have read all of them but will just pick up on a couple of things. Yes, the study was a one sided view via the medical records, written by the asylum doctors. And yes, like today, their views of what counts as normal behaviour and what counts as mad are shaped by ideas that were current at the time. From the records of the national inspectorate, there were cases where people appealed their admission. I don’t know how many won and if there are any records of that- I didn’t come across any. There are some accounts by patients/inmates of life in other asylums at other periods, and some report shocking cruelty. Frank mentioned how there was an increase in the apparent frequency of madness when the asylums were built. I would agree, and the asylum population continued to climb throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries. The records I looked at reported several building programmes initiated to accommodate rising numbers of patients. Historians favoured explanation for this is that families, under pressure of the capitalist, industrial economy, could no longer care for their dependent or disturbed members at home, as they had done in previous eras (sometimes with the support of the local parish). Explanations in the 20th century may be different. I was not making a plea for the return of the asylums, but I agree with Rachel that what we have now, for many people is ‘an asylum without walls’. That sort of system of control is more difficult to challenge and scrutinise, and that worries me.