Posts Tagged ‘ sources ’

Dissertations – Madness in Early Modern England

Alison R. Brown: “Though Troubled Be My Brain:” Madness in Early Modern England, 1603-1714

This dissertation is a study of madness in Stuart-Era England. Madness was pervasive in early modern England; it was in the streets, performed on stage, discussed in political pamphlets and legal treatises, and physically housed in Bethlehem Hospital. Madness, therefore, serves as a significant lens because in differentiating between madness and sanity, contemporaries regularly drew clear boundaries between acceptable, or “normal” behavior, and unacceptable, or “abnormal” behavior, that was particular to seventeenth-century English culture and society. Specifically, I argue that madness serves as a channel to examine the diagnoses and treatment of mental disorders that contemporaries believed altered the body and mind, the legal repercussions of abnormal behavior at the state and local level, and the use of corporeal rhetoric in political culture.

Ranters Declaration

Frontispiece of “The Ranters Declaration” (1650). The Ranters were a radical religious and political group that emerged during the mid-century crisis in England. Many critics of their movement described them as “The Mad Crew.”

In studying the diagnoses and treatments of diseases that altered the body and mind, we encounter contemporaries negotiating between the boundaries of madness and sanity in familial and community relationships, their choice of medical practitioner, their conception of the mind-body relationship, and the ways in which the interplay between natural and supernatural beliefs affected medicinal practices. In negotiating the boundaries between madness and sanity in gender relations, the law, and political culture, we encounter representations of the mad such as “Tom of Bedlam” and “Mad Bess,” recognizable characters in poems, riddles, and ballads. Representations of the mad and madness itself formed discursive elements in philosophy, religious nonconformity, gendered language, legal statutes, Personal Acts of Parliament, inquisitions of lunacy, the symbolism of “undress,” or nakedness, and in political propaganda meant to delegitimize opposing parties. Therefore, the ways in which contemporaries recognized, interpreted, and managed madness provides insight into aspects of English society colored by divisions between acceptable and unacceptable behavior.

Before public institutions for the insane were founded specifically for that purpose, family or community-based care was the norm for the mad, in addition to the few private madhouses that were founded by private entrepreneurs during the last half of the seventeenth century. With no bureaucratic system of recordkeeping, source limitations seemingly restricted historians to the period starting a century and a half later when public asylums were built. Consequently, this dissertation draws on a wide variety of sources in order to creatively circumvent this problem, including manuscripts, parish records, land commissions, autobiography, spiritual biography, criminal cases, political pamphlets, doctors’ notes, medical guidebooks, and more.

Alison R. Brown is a Ph.D. Candidate at Purdue University working with Professor Melinda S. Zook.

Contact: brown923@purdue.edu

 

Merken

Wellcome Library Makes Digitized Asylum Records Available Online

Ticehurst Hospital

Ticehurst Hospital

The Wellcome Library has made around 1000 patient records from the Ticehurst Hospital during the years 1793-1925 freely available online. You will find a description of and access to the holdings here.

Resources in the History of Psychiatry at the U.S. National Library of Medicine

The History of Medicine Division of the U.S. National Library of Medicine in Bethesda, Maryland offers some useful resources for historians of madness, psychiatry, and mental health.  For an overview of what the library has on offer, see Dr. Jeffrey S. Reznick’s (Chief, History of Medicine Division, National Library of Medicine of the National Institutes of Health) article “Perspectives from the History of Medicine Division of the United States National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health” published in the journal Medical History.

For historians of psychiatry in particular, the following will be particularly helpful if you are considering doing research there.

Emily Martin and Lorna A. Rhodes, Resources on the History of Psychiatry: History of Medicine Division of the National Library of Medicine (2004).  As they explain in their “overview”:

This report introduces scholars interested in the history of psychiatry to the extraordinary collection in the HMD and NLM. This collection is unparalleled for its coverage of time and place in great depth and breadth, for its possession of immense numbers of unique audiovisual and print materials and for its invaluable holdings of manuscripts and oral histories. We have arranged our report in 10 major sections as listed below. Our time frame is primarily from the 19th century to the 1970s. For each major section we have organized items from the library in subsections by topic, date, location, or format. Within each subsection, we have listed only a small selection of materials available in the library, a selection we have chosen to illustrate the large range of sources the collection contains: scientific monographs, federal or state reports, personal accounts, conference proceedings, legal briefs, armed service publications, mass market publications, teaching materials, monographs on psychiatric ethics, treatment, or social effects, manuscripts, audiovisual materials, ephemera, and so on.

Second, there is Mental Disease Moving Images Pre-1950 at the National Library of Medicine prepared by Sarah L. Richards (Curator, Historical Audiovisuals Collection, History of Medicine Division), organized around subject matters, ranging from “catatonia” to “psychiatric nursing” to “stress disorders.”

Finally, there is the catalogue Mind And Body: Rene Descartes to William James by Robert H. Wozniak, which originally accompanied a 1992 exhibition of books from the library’s collection, all in honor of the centennial celebration of the American Psychological Association.

Thanks to Dr. Reznick and Dr. Michael Sappol (Historian, History of Medicine Division, National Library of Medicine of the National Institutes of Health) for drawing our attention to these fabulous resources.

From Madness to Mental Health

Available beginning February 15, this anthology of primary sources chronicles the history of madness and psychiatry in western civilization, from ancient Israel to contemporary randomized clinical trials.  It also includes an updated bibliography of first-person narratives of mental illness compiled by Gail A. Hornstein. For more information click here.

To hear an interview with the author, click here.

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