Author Archive

Free medical history talks 2012-13

Posted October 22, 2012 2:21 pm by Francine Millard | Permalink

It’s that time of year again!

The Edinburgh History of Medicine Group have announced their varied programme of medical history talks which are free to attend. Hosted at the Royal College of Physicians Edinburgh, if you arrive around 4pm you’ll be treated to tea, coffee and biscuits.

2012-2013 talk programme

If you can’t make it in person, many of these talks are available via podcast, some including the original PowerPoint slides. You’ll need to supply your own tea and biscuits, though.

‘Madness in British India’ talk in Edinburgh

Posted September 20, 2012 9:07 am by Francine Millard | Permalink

I’m giving a talk on October 10th on the lunatic asylums of British India.

6pm at the National Library on George IV Bridge. This event is free and lasts for an hour. Come along and hear about asylum conditions, patients’ behaviour, the treatment of mental illness, illustrated with plenty of vivid quotes from the reports.

Looking forward to it!

Broadmoor revealed: then and now

Posted September 13, 2012 3:38 pm by Francine Millard | Permalink

Another Wellcome Trust funded project, access to the historic archives of Broadmoor Hospital in Berkshire, England, reveals life in a 19th century British Lunatic Asylum.

Broadmoor opened in 1863 and was built specifically to provide refuge for criminally insane ‘lunatics’ of both sexes and of a range of ages.

While most of the Victorian asylums were closed down at the end of the 20th century, Broadmoor still retains its imposing red-brick Victorian edifice and has housed some of Britain’s most notorious murderers. These aspects have lent it a macabre reputation particularly in the tabloid press.

However, the Berkshire Record Office website reveals what life was like in Victorian Broadmoor, showing that as in the Indian asylums, a regime of diet and occupation was the main treatment available to patients.

The site also links to a free eBook, Broadmoor Revealed, and an excellent podcast by the book’s author and archivist Mark Stevens.

If you are like me and curious to know what life is like in Broadmoor today, then this NHS film promotes a wider understanding of its work.

The Hospital has its 150th anniversary next year and is still working to dispel the myths and show that it is an institution whose work is about healthcare, not punishment.

Lunatic Asylums and their records in Delhi

Posted September 12, 2012 9:01 am by Francine Millard | Permalink

After enjoying my time and giving my paper at the Interdisciplinary 4th Global Conference on Madness and starting promotion for the Mental Health collection I have been in touch with a helpful researcher who presented a paper at the 2009 Madness conference.

Shilpi Rajpal presented on Life inside the Delhi Lunatic Asylum 1870-1900 and also has published an article in Economic and Political Weekly, April 21 2012 about the poor state of archives in India, appealing to the larger public and the academic community to come together and save the documental legacy of India.

The Delhi Asylum reports 1868-1910 are now available on the Medical History of British India website and are free to access.

I am delighted to receive positive feedback from someone who values the preservation and access work that we are doing on the Medical History of British India Project.

I’d love to hear from more researchers, so please either comment on this blog or email me at

Mental health reports now available online

Posted September 11, 2012 12:26 pm by Francine Millard | Permalink

You may be aware that the ‘Medicine – Mental health’ collection is now freely available online which is incredibly exciting.

Calcutta asylum

(hand-coloured print of the Calcutta Asylum 1851 is from

The 20,000 pages (46 volumes) cover the period of 1867 – 1948 and describe the patients, staff and conditions of asylums throughout colonial India. This free to access material provides extensive research on responses to mental illness when the asylum’s role was changing. The reports particularly show how ‘moral management’ was used by British colonists to treat native and European patients. This material will be particularly valuable to genealogists and those interested in the history of psychiatry, Indian and colonial history.

Keep an eye on the National Library of Scotland’s Events page for details of a talk I will be giving to introduce this amazing collection in October.

1930s mental health treatments

Posted August 16, 2012 4:44 pm by Francine Millard | Permalink

Early treatment of mental disorders

While researching treatments for my MAD5 conference presentation on British India asylums, I came across this video (click link above) by the National Library of Medicine which features chemically-induced convulsions for treating (mainly) schizophrenia.

The Mental health reports feature descriptions of such therapies like insulin coma, cardiazol convulsion therapy and prolonged sleep treatment. Ranchi Indian Mental Hospital staff documented experiments and how they worked with institutions abroad to investigate the efficacy of such therapies.

5th Global Conference: Making Sense Of: Madness (September 2012: Oxford, United Kingdom)

Posted August 8, 2012 12:58 pm by Francine Millard | Permalink

I am giving a paper on the ‘Medicine – Mental health collection’ (otherwise known as the lunatic asylum reports) at the MAD5 conference in Oxford at the end of this month.

The aim is to advertise how fascinating and useful the reports are. Currently myself and library digital staff are testing out the website ready for 20,00 pages to go live in September.


My draft paper is available online.

My paper presentation will explore the humane treatment in the asylums and the colonial motivations were for providing such treatment. In the 1970s and 1980s some historians argued that asylums all over the world were instruments of ’social control’ and colonial historians have written that western medicine in India was a ‘colonial tool’ used to maintain power over their subjects.

The latest collection to be added to the Medical History of British India website offers the opportunity to explore the extent to which the asylums served as a colonial tool to coerce and confine the native population and how they dealt with their own mentally ill. My talk explores the extent and effect of the therapeutic ‘moral management’ of patients which was also practised in other countries.

Great British bed bugs

Posted July 30, 2012 10:02 am by Francine Millard | Permalink

In the build-up to the London Olympics, with the invasion of Union Jacks, adverts for sport gear and energy drinks, have you considered another invasion – of bed bugs?

The Australian bed bug epidemic was most likely to have been caused by the mass influx of visitors to the Sydney Olympics in 2000. Now London is bracing itself not only for a year’s worth of tourists in 3 weeks but a surge in the bed bug population.

Bed bugs are wingless insects which are transferred from place to place by crawling into clothes and luggage. They can hide in mattresses, bed frames and even clock radios. They thrive in densely packed cities and feed on human blood. Infestations can be dealt with by pest control experts who deploy steam and chemicals against the unwanted insects.

Buyers of secondhand furniture are advised to check all items for bugs very carefully and travellers asked to check hotel beds and headboards while keeping luggage off the floor.

In British India it was suspected that the bed bug caused leishmaniasis, such as in Preliminary report on the development of the Leishman-Donovan body in the bed bug, 1907.

Medical personnel deliberately placed bed bugs on patients who were lying prostrate with malaria as part of their experiments.

In nineteenth century Bengal, bed bugs were a threat to army health as well as causing uncomfortable nights’ sleep for the soldiers as they were feared to carry disease-causing parasites.

Europeans were advised to copy the Mahomedans, who shook the bugs out of their beds just outside the house or the Hindus who placed wooden bug traps in their beds.

Morbid Curiosity on YouTube

Posted 9:58 am by Francine Millard | Permalink

The ‘Morbid Curiosity’ display is only on show until Thursday 2nd August in the National Library’s George IV Bridge building but you can view the video on YouTube alongside other interesting NLS videos.

Satisfy your morbid curiosity

Posted July 9, 2012 12:52 pm by Francine Millard | Permalink

Books about death and mourning

This month I’ve assembled a display in the main National Library of Scotland building outside the Reading Room.
The two cases show items from the Official Publications collection, all of which relate to death.
These volumes reflect the changing attitudes towards death throughout the centuries, from saints’ reliquaries and Egyptian mummies to Victorian mourning jewellery and the Shipman Inquiry on death certification.
If you can’t see the display in person, you can listen to or download the two-part Morbid Curiosity podcast on iTunes.
There will be a short film available on the NLS website soon.

Morbid Curiosity bibliography.
Items on display during July 2012:

Robinson, James, ‘Finer than gold: saints and their relics in the Middle Ages’ (London: British Museum Press, 2011).

Department of Health, ‘Care and respect in death’ (London: Department of Health, 2006).

Wallace, John, ‘When someone dies: how to cope when someone dear to you is gone’ (Edinburgh: NHS Health Scotland, 2011).

Smith, Janet, Dame, ‘The Shipman Inquiry : third report : death certification and the investigation of deaths by coroners presented to Parliament by the Secretary of State for the Home Department and the Secretary of State for Health’ (London: Stationery Office, 2003).

Penny, Nicholas, ‘Mourning’ (London: HMSO, 1981).

Llewellyn, Nigel, ‘The Art of Death: visual culture in the English death ritual c.1500-c.1800 (London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1991).

World Health Organization, ‘Statistiques épidémiologiques et démographiques annuelles de la santé = Annual epidemiological and vital statistics 1939-1946’ (Geneva: World Health Organization, 1939-1946).

Maxwell, Ingval, Nanda, Ratish and Urquhart, Dennis, ‘Conservation of Historic Graveyards’ (Edinburgh, Historic Scotland, 2001).

Grisbaum, Gretchen and Ubelaker, Douglas, ‘An analysis of forensic anthropology cases submitted to the Smithsonian Institution by the Federal Bureau of Investigation from 1962 to 1994’ (Washington D.C. : Smithsonian Institution Press, 2001).

Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, ‘Funeral reception catering at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh’ (Edinburgh: RGBE, 2012)

House of Commons, ‘Report on the mortality from influenza in Scotland during the epidemic of 1918-19, Cmd 282’ (Cambridge: Proquest LLC, 2007). Available as an electronic resource:

Other items from the Official Publications collection:

National Health Service in Scotland Management Executive, ‘Mortuary and post-mortem room. Supplement 1, Activity space data sheet’ (Edinburgh: HMSO, 1994).

Mitchell, D.J. and Loader, A., ‘Investigation of pollutant emissions from crematoria’ (Stevenage: Warren Spring Laboratory, 1993).

Historic Scotland, ‘Emergency measures for historic memorials: a short guide for cemetery managers’ (Edinburgh: Historic Scotland, 2003).

Department for Constitutional Affairs, ‘Guide for burial ground managers’ (London: DCA, 2005).

Gibson, Edwin and Kingsley, G., ‘Courage remembered : the story behind the construction and maintenance of the Commonwealth’s Military Cemeteries and Memorials of the Wars of 1914-1918 and 1939-1945’ (London: HMSO, 1995).

Read on at NLS:

Faust, Drew Gilpin, ‘This republic of suffering: death and the American Civil War’ (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2008).

Holbrooke, Ralph A., ‘Death, ritual and bereavement’ (London: Routledge, 1989).

Jalland, Patricia, ‘Death in the Victorian family’ (Oxford: OUP, 1996).

Kübler-Ross, Elisabeth, ‘On death and dying’ (London: Tavistock Publications, 1970).

Mims, Cedric A., ‘When we die: the science, culture and rituals of death’ (London: Robinson, 1998).

Seale, Clive, ‘Constructing death: the sociology of dying and bereavement’ (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1998).

All these are available in the National Library of Scotland.