The latest issue of Social History of Medicine contains at least two articles that interest the readers of h-madness.
“Migration and Madness at Sea: The Nineteenth- and Early Twentieth-century Voyage to New Zealand” by Angela McCarthy
This article draws on a range of sources—including surgeon superintendents’ reports as well as asylum records—to examine the mental health of migrants and crew on the voyage to New Zealand during the Victorian and Edwardian eras. It examines key themes such as relations between crew and passengers, the emotional dimensions of insanity, attempts to export the insane, and collaboration between doctors and relatives in adhering to mental health legislation in order to repatriate the insane, all of which facilitate assessment of wider debates about medical authority. While surgeon superintendents documented actions rather than causes for unusual behaviour, asylum doctors and family members were more likely to attempt to explain mental disturbance at sea. Additionally, this article examines the beliefs of medical officials who paradoxically argued that the voyage was beneficial, rather than detrimental, to health.
“‘Insane emigrants’ in transit. Psychiatric Patients’ Files as a Source for the History of Return Migration, c. 1910” by Gemma Blok
This article highlights a source that can contribute to the history of migration and mental health: the case records of Eastern European emigrants who tried to enter America at the beginning of the twentieth century, but were refused entrance because of their alleged insanity. Some of these unfortunates ended up in the Netherlands, on their way back home, having travelled to the United States through Rotterdam with the Holland-America Line. Psychiatric patient files were analysed relating to 85 ‘insane emigrants’ who were admitted to Maasoord, a psychiatric hospital near Rotterdam. This article offers an evaluation of the possibilites of this type of source material and makes a plea for more research into the experiences of ‘insane emigrants’ in transit.