Southern Rhodesia was a self-governing British colony in Africa. The colony was established in 1923, having previously been administered by the British South Africa Company. In 1953 Southern Rhodesia merged into a Federation with Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) and Nyasaland (now Malawi). The Federation ended in 1963 when the latter two countries achieved independence. In 1965 the white-supremacist government of Ian Douglas Smith issued a Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) from Great Britain and Rhodesia became an un-recognised state. A brutal liberation struggle followed, known as the Second Chimurenga by the indigenous population, and as the Rhodesian war by the white minority. In 1979 peace was brokered and on 17th April 1980, Robert Mugabe was elected as the Prime Minister of Zimbabwe.
The Ingutsheni Lunatic Asylum was built in 1908 and was one of the largest such institutions of its kind, eventually receiving ‘mad people’ from all three countries in the Federation. In 1930, England and Wales passed the Mental Treatment Act and the asylum became a mental hospital in 1933. The first trained alienist (psychiatrist) ever employed in the colony, Dr. Kenneth Mann Rodger, became the medical superintendent of Ingutsheni in October 1933. In 1936 Southern Rhodesia’s Legislative Council passed the Mental Disorders Act. The 1936 law established a Mental Hospitals Board composed of prominent members of the white community. They tended to defer to Rodger’s judgment because he was a highly respected specialist.
Charlotte Comins' family lived in the grounds of Ingutsheni from 1956-1971. For most of her life she kept her childhood a secret until she sought specialist psychological help. “Blue Remembered Sky” is the story about her childhood experience, her efforts to understand her parents' lives and her exposé of the brutal colonial regime under which she grew up.
Lunatic asylums were constructed throughout the British Empire and psychiatry, with its diagnoses, treatments and medication, was exported around the world. Diagnosis does nothing more than give a name to a set of completely understandable and appropriate feelings and reactions to difficult circumstances. The book ends with a new conceptual alternative to the diagnostic model offering tremendous hope for everyone affected by psychiatry and its approach to human suffering.