Dr Leonard David Smith BSc, MSc, PhD

Dr Leonard Smith

Institute of Applied Health Research
Honorary Senior Research Fellow

Contact details

Social Studies in Medicine
Institute of Applied Health Research
College of Medical and Dental Sciences
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Leonard Smith is a social historian with a special interest in the history of psychiatry and mental health institutions from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries. His research has focussed primarily on England and the former British West Indian colonies. It encompasses the development of both private madhouses and public lunatic asylums, those who established and managed them, and the patients who inhabited them. He has published extensively in these fields.

Dr Smith qualified as a Psychiatric Social Worker in 1973, and has since practised within various aspects of mental health services for his entire professional career.


  • PhD in Social History, University of Birmingham 1982
  • Certificate in Psychiatric Social Work, University of Leeds 1973
  • MSc in Economic History, London School of Economics 1969
  • BSc (Econ), London School of Economics 1968


Leonard Smith attended the London School of Economics from 1965-9, where he specialised in economic and social history. After graduating in 1969 with a MSc degree he became a social worker, qualifying as a Psychiatric Social Worker in 1973. He has pursued a professional career in mental health services since that time.

In 1977 he undertook part-time study at the University of Birmingham under Dorothy Thompson, in the field of social and labour history during the industrial revolution. He gained his PhD in 1982, with the title of ‘The Carpet Weavers of Kidderminster, 1800-1850’.

Dr Smith began researching on the social history of psychiatry and mental health services in 1986. His research has covered private, voluntary and state-sponsored institutions, and has extended beyond England to also include the colonies of the former British Caribbean. This work has resulted in the publication of three monographs and a number of articles in academic journals, as well as several chapters in edited collections. He is currently engaged in a study of private madhouses in England in the period from c1600 until 1815.


Dr Smith does occasional teaching on programmes within the History of Medicine.

Postgraduate supervision

Dr Smith is currently the co-supervisor for two people undertaking PhD study.


Current research

  • Private Madhouses in England, 1600-1815.

Previous research

  • Insanity and Mental Health Institutions in the British Caribbean, 1800-1914
  • St Peter’s Hospital, Bristol, 1698-1861
  • Voluntary Lunatic Hospitals in England, 1750-1830
  • Public Lunatic Asylums in England, 1760-1850

Other activities

Although he retired from working in community mental health services in 2014, Leonard Smith continues to serve as a ‘Hospital Manager’ for the purposes of reviewing detentions of people under the Mental Health Act.



Private Madhouses in England, 1640-1815: Commercialised Care for the Insane (Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan, 2020)

Smith L, Insanity, Race and Colonialism: Managing Mental Disorder in the Post-Emancipation British Caribbean, 1838-1914 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014).

Smith L, Lunatic Hospitals in Georgian England, 1750-1830 (London: Routledge, 2007).

Smith L, ‘Cure, Comfort and Safe Custody’; Public Lunatic Asylums in Early Nineteenth-Century England (London: Leicester University Press, 1999).

Smith L, Carpet Weavers and Carpet Masters: The Hand-Loom Carpet Weavers of Kidderminster, 1780-1850 (Kidderminster: Kenneth Tomkinson, 1986).

Smith L, The Carpet Weaver’s Lament: Songs and Ballads of Kidderminster in the Industrial Revolution (Kidderminster: Kenneth Tomkinson, 1979).

Edited collection

Smith L, Wynter R ‘Communicating Mental Health’, Medical Humanities 43 (2), June 2017.

Chapters in edited volumes

'Experiences of the Madhouse in England, 1650-1810', in Robert Ellis, Sarah Kendal and Steven J. Taylor (eds), Voices in the History of Madness: Personal and Professional Perspectives on Mental Health and Illness (Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan, 2021), 117-36.

Smith L, ' "A Powerful Agent in Their Recovery": Work as Treatment in British West Indian Lunatic Asylums, 1860-1910', in Waltraud Ernst (ed.), Work, Psychiatry and Society, c1750-2015 (Manchester University Press, 2016), 142-162. 

Smith L, ‘ “A Sad Spectacle of Hopeless Mental Degradation”: The Management of the Insane in West Midlands Workhouses, 1815-60’, in Jonathan Reinarz and Leonard Schwarz (eds), Medicine and the Workhouse (Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2013), 103-20. 

Smith L,‘ “The Keeper Himself Must Also Be Kept”: Visitation and the Lunatic Asylum in England, 1750-1850’, in Graham Mooney and Jonathan Reinarz (eds), Permeable Walls: Historical Perspectives on Hospital and Asylum Visiting (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2009), 199-222.

Smith L, 'Doctors and Lunatics: the Enigma of the Leicester Asylum, 1781-1837’, in Jonathan Reinarz (ed.), Medicine and Society in the Midlands 1750-1950 (Birmingham: Midland History Occasional Publications, 2007), 47-60. 

Smith L, ‘The Architecture of Confinement; Urban Public Asylums in England, 1750-1820’, in L.Topp, J.E. Moran and J. Andrews (eds.), Madness, Architecture and the Built Environment: Psychiatric Spaces in Historical Context (London: Routledge, 2007), 41-61.

Smith L, ‘The County Asylum in the Mixed Economy of Care, 1808 – 1845’, in J. Melling and B. Forsythe (ed.), Insanity, Institutions and Society, 1800 –1914; A Social History of Madness in Comparative Perspective (London: Routledge, 1999), 33-47.

Smith L, ‘ “A Worthy Feeling Gentleman”; Samuel Hitch at Gloucester Asylum, 1828 – 1846’, in H. Freeman and G. Berrios (ed.), 150 Years of British Psychiatry, Vol. II, The Aftermath (London: Athlone, 1996), 479-499.

Smith L, ‘ “Levelled to the Same Common Standard ?”; Social Class in the Lunatic Asylum, 1780 – 1860’, in O. Ashton, R. Fyson, and S. Roberts (ed.), The Duty of Discontent; Essays for Dorothy Thompson (London: Mansell, 1995), 142-166.

Journal articles

Smith, L, 'Institutional Care of the Insane in England, 1600-1815: Public Charity, Private Enterprise and State Intervention', Chinese Journal for the Social History of Medicine VI, no.1, June 2021, 116-135.

Leonard Smith: 'Insanity and Society in 1870s Barbados', in The Journal of Caribbean History 52, no. 2 (2018), 175-97.

Leonard Smith and Timothy Peters, ‘Introduction’ to Classic Text No. 111, ‘Details on the Establishment of Doctor Willis, for the Cure of Lunatics’ (1796), History of Psychiatry 28, 2017, 365-77

(With Rebecca Wynter), ‘Introduction: Historical Contexts to Communicating Mental Health’, Medical Humanities 43 (2), June 2017, 73-80.

Smith L, ‘Lunatic Asylum in the Workhouse: St Peter’s Hospital, Bristol, 1698-1861’, Medical History 61 (2), April 2017, 225-45.

Smith L, ‘ “God Grant it May Do Good Two All”: the Madhouse Practice of Joseph Mason, 1738–79’, History of Psychiatry 27, 2016, 208-19.

Smith L, ‘The Working Man's Champion: Reverend Humphrey Price (1775-1853)’, Midland History 40, Autumn 2015, 243-263.

Smith L, 'Aged, Decrepit and Destitute: Poor Relief and Health Care in the Bahamas, 1810 - 1910', The Journal of Caribbean History 49:2, 2015, 189-214. 

Smith L, ‘Institutions for the Insane in Nineteenth-Century Barbados’, The Journal of the Barbados Museum and Historical Society LX, 2014, 66-93.

Smith L, ‘Welcome Release: Perspectives on Death in the Early County Lunatic Asylums, 1810-50’, History of Psychiatry 23, 2012, 117-28.

Smith L, 'Caribbean Bedlam: The Development of the Lunatic Asylum System in Britain’s West Indian Colonies, 1838-1914’, The Journal of Caribbean History 44:1, 2010, 1-47.

Smith L, ‘ “Your Very Thankful Inmate”: Discovering the Patients of an Early County Lunatic Asylum’, Social History of Medicine 21, 2008, 237-252.

Smith L, ‘A Gentleman’s Mad-Doctor in Georgian England: Edward Long Fox and Brislington House’, History of Psychiatry 19, 2008, 163-184.

Smith L, ‘Greeners and Sweaters: Jewish Immigration and the Cabinet-Making Trade in East London, 1880-1914’, Jewish Historical Studies 39, 2004, 103-120.

Smith L, ‘ “The Greatest Ornament of Our Native County”; Staffordshire General Lunatic Asylum, 1818 – 1862’, Staffordshire Studies 11, 1999, 82-95.

Smith L, ‘Sandfield House Lunatic Asylum, Lichfield, 1820 – 1856’, Staffordshire Studies 10, 1998, 71-5.

Smith L, ‘Insanity and Ethnicity: Jews in the Mid-Victorian Lunatic Asylum’, Jewish History and Culture 1, 1998, 27-40.

Smith L, ‘The Pauper Lunatic Problem in the West Midlands, 1815 – 1850, Midland History 21, 1996, 101-118.

Smith L, ‘The “Great Experiment”; The Place of Lincoln in the History of Psychiatry’, Lincolnshire History and Archaeology 30, 1995, 55-62.

Smith L, ‘Close Confinement in a Mighty Prison; Thomas Bakewell’s Campaign Against Public Asylums, 1815 – 1830’, History of Psychiatry 5, 1995, 191-214.

Smith L, ‘To Cure those Afflicted With the Disease of Insanity; Thomas Bakewell and Spring Vale Asylum’, History of Psychiatry 4, 1993, 107-27.

Smith L,‘Duddeston Hall and the “Trade in Lunacy”, 1835 – 1865’, The Birmingham Historian 8, 1992, 16-22.

Smith L, ‘Eighteenth Century Madhouse Practice; the Prouds of Bilston’, History of Psychiatry 3, 1992, 45-52.

Smith L, ‘Behind Closed Doors; Lunatic Asylum Keepers, 1800 – 1860’, Social History of Medicine 1, 1988, 301-27.

Smith L, ‘Industrial Organization in the Kidderminster Carpet Trade, 1780-1850’, Textile History 15, 1984, 75-100.

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