Amy Milne-Smith
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Madmen out of the attic
Reputation, rage, and liberty
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This chapter continues with the voice of the patient, but rather than focusing on those who were ashamed of their fate, here the patients fought back. Individuals and advocacy groups challenged diagnoses both inside and outside the asylum. This chapter explores how men fought back against certification and incarceration and attempted to restore their public reputations or regain their freedom. The chapter outlines the boundaries of madness, and the debate over the line between eccentricity and madness.

Here Chancery lunacy cases take centre stage, widely publicized in the press as men of wealth and position battled to prove their sanity. Such situations were the worst-case scenarios for families of status and influence and demonstrate a complete breakdown in family coherence. The chapter ends with a series of case studies which played out in the public eye, exploring how and why different men challenged their diagnoses. Men’s chief justification for telling their stories can be grouped into three main motivations: an attempt to reassert their patriarchal control, an attempt to regain their freedom, and a desire to restore their reputation.

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Out of his mind

Masculinity and mental illness in Victorian Britain


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