throughout the colonial period. Encompassing travel writing, memoir and fiction, as well as medical science, it recycled many older ideas of Africa as a ‘white man’s grave’ or a ‘heart of darkness’. These ideas did not remain constant, however, but were reconfigured and reworked – updated, as it were, for the twentieth century and settlement. While sanity and madness were at the heart of
and habits, and his parodie ludic focus on the dramatic manifestations of this, are further indicative of a concept of festivity in his treatment of matters of social interaction. The concept of ‘festive madness’, where the observer looks at the world through different eyes, ‘not dimmed by “normal”, that is by commonplace ideas and judgements’ (Bakhtin 1984 : 39) is central to Mikhail Bakhtin’s assessment of the popular
This book reinterprets the history of madness by examining the powerful influence of civil law on understandings of and responses to madness in England and in the North American territory of New Jersey. The influence of civil law on the history of madness has not hitherto been a topic of major academic investigation. Lunacy investigation law (that body of laws encompassing trials in lunacy, chancery court proceedings, proceedings in guardianship and trials of traverse) had its origins in fourteenth-century England. By the eighteenth century, English architects of the civil law had developed a sophisticated legal response to those among the propertied classes who suffered from madness. Lunacy investigation law was also transported successfully along imperial pathways and built into the legal frameworks of several colonies, including New Jersey. In New Jersey a rare and extensive collection of lunacy trials are explored to uncover how customary understandings of and responses to madness were tightly connected to the structures of civil law. The richness of these legal documents allows for an assessment of how civil law, customary responses and institutional alternatives to caring for the mad were balanced in this North American setting before and during the asylum era. Through its analysis of historical precedent, the book also offers insights into on-going contemporary concerns about mental capacity and guardianship.
3 Travails of madness: New Jersey, 1800–70 James Moran By the mid-twentieth century, the questions prompted by our considerations of psychiatric patient work in institutional settings had formed a familiar subject in the broader history of the asylum. Ellen Dwyer, Nancy Tomes, Steven Cherry, Patricia D’Antonio, James Moran (and others) have all noted that patient work formed an essential part of the broader therapeutic system of moral therapy in asylum settings.1 Partly grounded in much earlier humoral considerations of the mind/body relationship, physicians
linking displays such as the mental asylum of Bethlem (Bedlam) and the sites of the Ripper murders is the collective fascination with deviancy, aberration and abnormality. In fact madness, on many levels, becomes the primary discourse in the interwoven narratives about the Whitechapel murders, and the article in Punch draws attention to the impact that sensationalist media may have on
decline which assail us on all hands. 1 In his text on neurasthenia, Rumler identified a common feeling at the turn of the twentieth century: British men were not what they used to be. More troubling still, all of the civilizing practices of modern life were opening the door to some long-dormant vulnerability to madness. Insanity was a resonant issue in Victorian culture because it touched on larger
The previous chapter explored some of the complex combinations of legislative, legal, economic and social pressures that contributed to the development of lunacy investigation law. It suggested how this body of law, in turn, helped to frame understandings of and responses to madness. As befitted a process of this sort, the lens through which madness was brought into focus was largely legal and involved the participation of Lord Chancellors and lawyers, as well as the building of a body of legal precedent. It is also not surprising that
4 The madness of Margaret Nicholson On 2 August 1786 George III survived what was to become the best-known attempt on the life of a British monarch. It was not a unique incident, for George had survived the attack of Rebecca O’Hara eight years earlier, but that case had aroused little public interest. What was it about the Margaret Nicholson affair that secured it such a prominent place in the nation’s collective memory and in contemporary constitutional discourse? Margaret Nicholson, a 36-year-old London needlewoman, was ushered to the front of a small crowd
10 IDIOCY AND THE CONCEPTUAL ECONOMY OF MADNESS Murray K. Simpson Intellectual disability has long had, and indeed continues to have, an uneasy and inconsistent position in the nosology of mental illness. This situation has coupled with a generally under-problematized historical linkage between ‘intellectual disability’ and ‘idiocy’, resulting in a severely weakened understanding of the historical descent of the latter and the overstatement of its connection to the former. Hitherto, very little attention has been given to the significance of the conceptual
Kenya Colony, for the British at least, has customarily been imagined as a place of wealthy settler-farmers, sun-lit panoramas and the adventure of safari. Yet for the majority of Europeans who went there life was very different. This book offers an unprecedented new account of what was – supposedly – the most picturesque of Britain’s colonies overseas. While Kenya’s romantic reputation has served to perpetuate the notion that Europeans enjoyed untroubled command, what the lives of Kenya’s white insane powerfully describe are stories of conflict, immiseration, estrangement and despair. Crucially, Europeans who became impoverished in Kenya or who transgressed the boundary lines separating colonizer from colonized subverted the myth that Europeans enjoyed a natural right to rule. Because a deviation from the settler ideal was politically problematic, therefore, Europeans who failed to conform to the collective self-image were customarily absented, from the colony itself in the first instance and latterly from both popular and scholarly historical accounts. Bringing into view the lives of Kenya’s white insane makes for an imaginative and intellectual engagement with realms of human history that, so colonial ideologies would have us believe, simply were not there. Tracing the pathways that led an individual to the hospital gates, meanwhile, shows up the complex interplay between madness and marginality in a society for which deviance was never intended to be managed but comprehensively denied.