A Malady of Migration 2014

A theatrical examination of diaspora, displacement and mental disorders in the 19th century


At a time when the issues of migration and mental health are seldom out of the news, the UCD Centre for the History of Medicine in Ireland (CHOMI) and the Centre for the History of Medicine (CHM), University of Warwick worked with Talking Birds to develop a new theatre production which explored why the mid-19th century saw a prevalence of mental disorders among Irish migrants.

This followed CHM’s successful collaboration with Talking Birds on the ‘Trade in Lunacy‘ in 2013, and again used original music, song, humour and sharp characterisations to tell a series of intertwining stories.

A Malady of Migration

The new piece was called ‘A Malady of Migration‘ and was based on research carried out by Dr Catherine Cox, Director of CHOMI, University College Dublin, and Professor Hilary Marland, University of Warwick, on a project called Madness, Migration and the Irish in Lancashire, c.1850-1921, funded by the Wellcome Trust. They were supported by postgraduate students and others, who conducted supplementary research and took supporting roles in the drama.

Professor Hilary Marland explained the reasons for undertaking the work:

This is a chance to showcase our research in a way that is interesting, informative and sensitive, weaving in stories based on patients’ case histories and experiences. The aim is to make the findings of the research available to wider publics and to stimulate thinking and debate about mental illness in the past and present.