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Inconvenient People: Lunacy, Liberty and Mad-Doctors in Victorian England.



5 stars.

This is a fascinating book covering the lives of lunatics and alleged lunatics in Victorian England. Mental illness was little understood and feared. Many people found it shameful to have a lunatic relative and so often such people were hidden away. The book covers several persons who, although eccentric, were misdiagnosed as insane, hauled away to either ‘private’ asylums or larger establishments, with little or no recourse to law.

The author often mentions fiction in which this occurs – namely Jane Eyre and Women in White but the truth was often not far, or sometimes even worse than fiction.

The reasons for incarceration ranged from relatives wanting control of finances; inconvenient wives; women who spoke out and behaved against the rigid, masculine status quo, and in one of the case studies a group involved with a cult. Each case is discussed in depth, sympathetically and the changes in law (if any applied) mentioned.

It is a good insight into the world of Victorian England, the rules governing the role of women, the sick, the upper-classes and how the populace reacted. Ignorance, spite, greed and misdirection fill these pages, along with love gone sour, obsession and most importantly – courage.

For anyone interested in Victorian history, the history of mental illness treatment or psychiatry might find this book a good read.