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Module 12

Schools, Prisons, and Asylums in mid-19th-century British North America: What did institutional reforms have in common?

Colin Coates

In the mid-nineteenth century, a number of reforms to key government institutions took place in the British North American colonies. Education became widely available to young children. Governments invested great amounts of money in building asylums and prisons with the hope of changing the individuals who would be placed there. This module queries whether we can see commonalities between the different institutional reforms in this period.

Primary sources:

  1. Text: Charles Duncombe, ‘Report of the Commissioners on the Subject of Prisons, Penitentiaries, etc.’ Journal of the House of Assembly of Upper Canada (1836)
  2. Text: Rev. Egerton Ryerson, ‘Part I of the Report on a System of Public Elementary Education for Upper Canada’ (1846)
  3. Text: Gordon McCall Theal, ‘Schooldays, Schooldays… Cocagne Academy in the 1840s’
  4. Painting: Robert Harris, ‘A Meeting of the School Trustees’ (1885)
  5. Text: Susanna Moody, Life in the Clearings Versus the Bush (1853)
  6. Painting: William James Thomson, untitled painting of the Provincial Asylum in Toronto (1890)
  7. Image: Return of Lunatic Asylum, Toronto (1851-2)

Secondary sources:

  1. Daniel Francis. ‘The Development of the Lunatic Asylum in the Maritime Provinces’ Acadiensis (1977)
  2. Janet Miron. ‘“Open to the Public”: Touring Ontario Asylums in the Nineteenth Century’ in James E. Moran and David Wright, eds., Mental Health and Canadian Society: Historical Perspectives (2006)
  3. Robert Lanning. ‘Awakening a Demand for Schooling : Educational Inspection’s Impact on Rural Nova Scotia, 1855-74’ Historical Studies in Education (2000)

Introduction

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