The Journal of Caribbean History: Volume 44, Issue 1

Article 1
Caribbean Bedlam: The Development of the Lunatic Asylum System in Britain’s West Indian Colonies, 1838–1914

Leonard Smith


The establishment of institutions for the insane preceded most other measures of public social provision in the British West Indian colonies. A lunatic asylum had been added to the public hospital in Kingston, Jamaica by 1820. In most other islands an asylum of some sort was established during the 1840s, but standards were much inferior to what was considered acceptable in public asylums in Britain. Large new lunatic asylums, based on the British system of “moral management”, were opened in Jamaica in 1862, Barbados in 1893, and Trinidad in 1900. Elsewhere, however, rudimentary facilities and poor conditions persisted well into the twentieth century.