Kathleen Jones, 1922-2010

November 18, 2010

A pioneering historian of British mental health provision has died.

Kathleen Jones was born in London on 7 April 1922 and won scholarships to North London Collegiate School and then to read modern history at Westfield College, which had relocated from London to Oxford during the Second World War.

Although she married David Gwyn Jones, a theology student, soon after graduation, he spent much of their early married life abroad on military service, while she lectured for the Workers' Educational Association.

But when her husband became chaplain of a Lancashire mental hospital in 1950, Professor Jones began her life-long interest in the development of mental health services.

Thinking this might be a good topic for an MA dissertation, she applied to the University of London and was shuffled between the history, medical and sociology departments before someone suggested she should instead embark on a doctorate.

This led to an appointment as a research assistant at the University of Manchester and the eventual publication of her thesis as Lunacy, Law and Conscience 1744-1845 (1955).

It was later followed by further volumes on more recent times, Mental Health and Social Policy (1960) and History of the Mental Health Services (1972).

In the meantime, however, Professor Jones' husband was sent by the Army to Singapore and then Malaysia, where she ended up teaching history in a leading boys' school.

Back in England, she secured a post as lecturer, and then senior lecturer, at the University of Manchester and became a prominent critic of government plans to cut back on the provision of beds for mental health patients.

She moved to the new University of York in 1965 as professor of social administration and served for 22 years as head of what became the department of social policy and social work.

This department, and particularly its Social Policy Research Unit, soon became central to public debates about healthcare, poverty and planning.

Professor Jones served as the representative of her discipline on the University Grants Commission at a time when it was under considerable political pressure. She was also part of the Committee on Terrorism and Human Rights in Northern Ireland.

Although she retired in 1988, Professor Jones went on to produce a textbook on The Making of Social Policy in Britain (2001) and pursued a long-standing interest in religion in Challenging Richard Dawkins (2007) and a series of books about saints.

She died on 13 October.


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