John Galt was Superintendent of a hospital for the insane with a long history and lived at a time when there were many new ideas surrounding the care and treatment of the insane moving around the world.

This site tries to both give a sense of the currents of thought that were circulating at the time (and their sources) and to show how one man tried to bring them together to inform his treatment of actual insane patients, in a particular location and context. Concentrating on one historical actor in this way allows us to see how grand ideas were implemented at ground level, and to see both the scope and the limits of individual agency in trying to effect institutional change.

In his popular book The Treatment of Insanity, Galt's notes on a massive selection of international writings on insanity, he acknowledged that the plan might seem "experimental ... chaotic and devoid of system," but stated that "these are little more than imaginary evils." This site follows a similar belief: it is organized around 4 categories-Society, Representations, Surroundings and Treatment-each of which contains materials relating to a different aspect of Galt's mind. By clustering together illustrative materials in flexible categories it aims, like Galt's book, to give a sense of a field-and a mind-which was ever expanding.

Most of the material on the site is excerpted from Galt's annual Superintendent's Reports; the Complete Report for 1857 is also included. Various other materials from the site are all taken from documents found in Galt's personal library. References are explained in a Bibliography. The Index lists all the pages on the site.