'Noisy, restless and incoherent': puerperal insanity at Dundee Lunatic Asylum

Morag Allan Campbell

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3 Citations (Scopus)


Puerperal insanity has been described as a nineteenth-century diagnosis, entrenched in contemporary expectations of proper womanly behaviour. Drawing on detailed study of establishment registers and patient case notes, this paper examines the puerperal insanity diagnosis at Dundee Lunatic Asylum between 1820 and 1860. In particular, the study aims to consider whether the class or social status of the patients had a bearing on how their conditions were perceived and rationalized, and how far the puerperal insanity diagnosis, coloured by the values assigned to it by the medical officers, may have been reserved for some women and not for others. This examination of the diagnosis in a Scottish community, suggesting a contrast in the way that middle-class and working-class women were diagnosed at Dundee, engages with and expands on work on puerperal insanity elsewhere.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)44-57
Number of pages14
JournalHistory of Psychiatry
Issue number1
Early online date3 Oct 2016
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2017


  • Case notes
  • Lunatic asylums
  • Nineteenth century
  • Puerperal insanity
  • Scotland
  • Women


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