This fascinating story of madness reveals the radically different perceptions of madness and approaches to its treatment, from antiquity to the present day. Roy Porter explores what we really mean by 'madness', covering an enormous range of topics from witches to creative geniuses, electric shock therapy to sexual deviancy, psychoanalysis to prozac. The origins of current debates about how we define and deal with insanity are examined through eyewitness accounts of those treating patients, writers, artists, and the mad themselves.
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(172mm x 120mm x 16mm)
Oxford University Press
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Country of Publication:
UK Kirkus Review »
Where does eccentricity end and madness begin? Are all geniuses slightly mad? These and other questions are discussed in an academic way by medical historian Professor Roy Porter, whose 85th and last book this was. Porter had a gift for succinct analysis, and never did he show it better than here. Starting in antiquity and bringing us forward to the era of Prozac and Valium, Porter explains that insanity has always been an uncomfortable topic for doctors, who have never been able to agree a definition among themselves. What some have seen as madness, others have regarded as nothing more than oddball, and ailments such as epilepsy were once regarded as insanity by some and as demonic possession by others. In these more enlightened times we often find that popping a pill can control what would once have been thought a curse from God. Porter quotes from classical literature as well as papers from the 19th and 20th centuries to show the changing attitudes to mental disorders and how they were treated. From ice-cold baths to electric-shock therapy, he discusses what the effects were on those afflicted. Writers, artists and medical staff are quoted for their various and contradictory opinions, while Porter also devotes space to the words of those who were certified insane. In a book of this size it is impossible to study such an emotive topic to any depth, and Porter never attempts to do so. Instead, he provides an overview of the subject of mental health and goes on to suggest other titles that deal more fully with particular aspects. The book is well illustrated, showing the often-brutal methods of treating the mentally-ill over many centuries. (Kirkus UK)
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Author Biography - Roy Porter
The most highly-acclaimed and prolific medical historian of this generation. Roy Porter was a well-known and widely respected author of over 80 books, the most recent being the much reviewed Enlightenment: Britain and the Creation of the Modern World (Penguin, 2000). He published extensively in the history of psychiatry, including A Social History of Madness (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1987; Paperback edition, 1989); The Faber Book of Madness (Faber, 1991; paperback 1993). He was Professor of the Social History of Medicine at the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine at University College London; and had extensive experience of popular public lecturing, broadcasting, and serious journalism.