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Richard Hunter's collection of manuscript and printed material relating to the history of psychiatry

Reference Code: GBR/0012/MS Add.10297

Scope and Contents

A collection of manuscript and printed ephemera relating to the early history of the treatment of mental illness, much of which relates to the Hanwell Asylum (later Middlesex County Asylum). Comprises: correspondence, committal returns, maintenance orders, petitions, accounts, printed extracts, engravings and illustrations. Together with some disparate material relating to Bethlem Hospital, Gloucester County Asylum, Hertfordshire County, Dr Bedford Pierce at the Retreat in York and to a number of individual cases.

Much of the material in this collection relates to the administrative process by which individuals (typically described in the records as ‘pauper lunatics’, as distinct from private patients) were committed to asylums. Legislation passed in England in the 19th century, particularly the County Lunatics Asylum Act 1828 and the Lunacy Act 1845, set out a more formal process for the establishment and running of public asylums, typically at county level. The burden for the financial maintenance of the mentally unwell fell to the parishes and Overseers of the Poor, and records (printed forms or returns) were increasingly produced to formally oversee this process.

Unless otherwise stated, the use of quotation marks in this catalogue reflects a word, phrase, title or proper noun exactly as it appears in the records. The papers were collected by Dr Richard Hunter, co-author of 'Three hundred years of psychiatry 1535 to 1860' (Oxford, 1963), the second author being Ida Macalpine, Hunter's mother. None of the material in this collection appears to be included in Hunter's published work, but some documents have been annotated by Hunter with reference to '300 years'. Some material has no obvious relevance to the history of psychiatry, and it is unclear why this material was collected by Hunter.

Approx. 180 items, with over 40 printed engravings.


  • Creation: 1684 - 1962


Conditions Governing Access

Unless restrictions apply, the collection is open for consultation by researchers using the Manuscripts Reading Room at Cambridge University Library. For further details on conditions governing access please contact Information about opening hours and obtaining a Cambridge University Library reader's ticket is available from the Library's website (


2 archive box(es)

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased by Cambridge University Library in March 2019.

Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Cambridge University Library Repository

Cambridge University Library
West Road
Cambridge CB3 9DR United Kingdom