Review of Bartlett P & Wright D (eds) (1999) Outside the walls of the asylum. The history of care in the community 1750-2000. Athlone: London

The strength of this book is its emphasis on the care that the mentally disordered have always received outside the asylum. Community care was not invented with the NHS and Community Care Act 1990. State confinement in the asylum has not been the only response to the mentally ill. There always was a turnover of patients in the asylum and boarding-out of chronic cases and trial discharge played a role. The family, not just the state, influenced the organisation of care. The twelve chapters in this book contribute to the history of mental health care in Britain and Ireland and include specific studies of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Their breadth and openness contrasts with the current government's narrow stand that community care has failed. The book should encourage a deeper understanding of the politics of community care and proper consideration of the role of detention in psychiatric hospital.