The late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries represent a golden age in the design and construction of hospitals and asylums for the insane. In Britain the great veterans' hospitals at Chelsea and Greenwich were erected, the ancient London hospitals completely reconstructed, and more than fifty other hospitals and asylums purpose-built by British charities or by the Navy. This book is the first devoted entirely to these fascinating buildings and to the wide contemporary interest that they aroused. In examining the planning and construction of English and Scottish hospitals in this period, architectural historian Christine Stevenson focuses on what these buildings meant--to architects, builders, donors, physicians, and the public--and how their meanings and functions changed.
Stevenson shows that hospital design was directed by medical theory and concerns to a greater degree than has been previously assumed. But this wide-ranging book is much more than a technical history. Blending social history with the details of construction, Stevenson introduces a large cast of players: voyeuristic women and dreaming engineers, military physicians who destroyed and Freemasons who built. In bringing to life those involved in designing and working in the institutions and those attacking them, too, she offers a new view of architectural, cultural and medical practice in the period as a whole.