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A History of Insanity and the Asylum (Hardback)

Not of Sound Mind

Hobbies & Lifestyle > Medicine & Health P&S History > British History P&S History > By Century > 18th Century P&S History > By Century > 19th Century P&S History > By Century > 20th Century P&S History > Social History

By Juliana Cummings
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 232
Illustrations: 30 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781399012140
Published: 16th January 2023

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The iconic image of the lunatic asylum is one that often leaves us wondering what went on inside these imposing buildings.

In this new book, Juliana Cummings first questions what behaviours and characteristics define insanity and leads us through a comprehensive history of insanity and the asylum from the early treatment and care of mental illness in the Middle Ages and early modern period through to the closure of mental institutions in the twentieth century.

Throughout the years, we learn of how the treatments and institutional structures for caring for the mentally ill developed and changed. The Age of Enlightenment and the rise of humanitarian reform was followed by the emergence of the insane asylum in the 1800s, which saw the beginning of the widespread constructions of asylums.

We explore the different reasons for admittance, as well as the vast array of treatments. It shows that your treatment as an inmate of an asylum could vary depending on your gender and your social class.

Although once thought of as criminals, the mentally ill were gradually treated with care. Juliana discusses the different treatments used over time as attitudes towards the mentally ill changed, such as drug use, psychosurgery and insulin therapy. We learn of the regulations and reforms that led to the closure of asylums, how their closure affected society and consider how the mentally ill are treated today.

This insightful new history helps us to better understand the haunting past of the asylum and leads us down a fascinating road to where we come to an understanding of a time in history that is often mistaken.

A very insightful and Interesting read for anyone who loves to study or read about this type of stuff.

NetGalley, Elizabeth Means

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this book, it was eerie and very eye opening.

NetGalley, Aisha Bari

"A History of Insanity and the Asylum is a fascinating, well-written book on a complex and often taboo subject. It illuminates the often-cruel history of psychiatric treatment but also highlights the remarkable advances that have been made."

Read the review here

Dr Arpan Banerjee - Hektoen International Journal

An ideal book if your are interested in mental health, and might be a bit surprising for those who know little about this subject.

Read the Full Review Here

The History Fella

A History of Insanity and the Asylum: Not of Sound Mind is exactly as the title advertises. It’s a history of insanity throughout the ages. Cummings brilliantly discusses a topic that has had so many stigmas associated with it throughout most of history. While the cover of the book is “scary”, and arguably, the history of insanity is quite disturbing, she doesn’t glorify this in the writing, and the stories and facts are all written in a respectful way. I particularly appreciated how the author doesn’t talk down to the reader.

NetGalley, Helen Power

A fascinating glimpse into a slice of history of mental illness and its treatment.

NetGalley, Elisabeth Axnick

A History of Insanity and the Asylum is a heart bruising and compelling dive into the topic from ancient times to the recent closure of asylums. The author describes those who both positively and negatively impacted our knowledge of mental health.

Sufferers were often misunderstood and viewed as evil and therefore treated abysmally, especially women. Bedlam, public viewing, the wandering womb, malnourishment, workhouse-like conditions of Magdalene asylums and Hitler's barbarism are detailed. Creatives including Mozart and Poe who suffered from depression are mentioned. But not all treated patients with disdain; Thomas Kirkbride opened asylums where patients were shown proper attention and care. Others like him gave hope.

Various treatments such as insulin therapy, bloodletting, leucotomies, trepanning, purging, restricting movement and rotation therapy are discussed.

If this subject fascinates you, especially if you are new to it, do read this.

NetGalley, Brenda Carleton

This was an eye opening deep dive into the history to insanity and the asylum, written with great detail, but not densely.

I learned many new things I had no knowledge of. This goes over the good and the bad. How poorly the mentally ill had been treated, how those without mental illness, but just undesirable were locked away under the pretense of being deemed insane. This goes into the science behind it all, the discoveries and the growth of humane practices.

I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone looking to further inform themselves about the history of asylums and scope of how medicine and procedure has changed through the centuries. This was so compelling!

NetGalley, Kera Gould

Anyone with an interest in history or medicine will love this book. An interesting and fascinating book looking at the history of treatment of mental illness throughout the ages. The treatments, attitudes and imprisonment in some ages will equally horrify and fascinate as you read through the book.
I really liked the style of writing.

NetGalley, Helen Wilkinson

I found this such a fascinating and traumatic read in places. The way it covered the complete history of asylums was done really well and I liked how it presented these facts in an objective way whilst still having compassion for the patients and those who suffered. This was well researched and I thought the focus and presentation was good. It kept me hooked all the way through and I couldn't put it down!

NetGalley, Bethany Younge

This book is a great starting point if you are interested in all things ‘mental health’ and the history of asylums. Full of interesting information and stories which I enjoyed reading. I have an interest in the history behind asylums so this was right up my street.

NetGalley, Toni Wade

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I read this over 2 days. I found it incredibly interesting.

NetGalley, Michelle Coates

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This book is amazing - if you enjoy learning of historical medical practices and beliefs, this will go down very well for you.
The book combines deep research with excellent entertaining writing. It drew me in and I already gasped a few times at the ideas people (men?) Had about the female conditions.

NetGalley, Beatrix Starling

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Brilliant book, so much history about asylums etc and I have read many books like this and found this one be the best.
Well written and shows care to the history of those involved.

NetGalley, Karen Bull

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This is the first book that I have read by this author however I thoroughly enjoyed it. I loved the authors style of writing, it was easy to follow and covered the facts without the need to resort to add in opinions or made-up stories in order to illustrate the point. The book was well researched and provided interesting and important details. I have read many books on this area however there were still things that I got from this. I also enjoyed some of the topics covered especially the chapter on eugenics as this is not always covered in books about this topic. The chapters covered the topic well, without excess rambling detail. I would certainly recommend this to lovers of history and those interested in the topic of mental health, I would also look out for this author again.

NetGalley, Claire Knight

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This book was most interesting. We have all been intrigued by asylums and the mentally ill and this book takes a look at how these institutions were run, the people who ran them and the people in their care.
It is oft times a hideous times and I loved the deep exploration of the changes over time and thank God that todays mental health service is what it is .

fascinating ...

NetGalley, tracy shephard

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This was such an interesting read that taught me so much. It was a heavy read that was full of horrific facts but it was also such an important read, as I think it is important to know what people with mental health went through under the umbrella of caring for them and also how things have changed - or not in some cases.
A hard hitting yet important and informative read.

NetGalley, Aria Harlow

Have you ever wondered who thought: “maybe if I shock this person with electricity he’ll start feeling better?” In this informative volume, Juliana Cummings answers that, and many, many other questions you probably never thought you had. From the beginning of history, humans have been plagued by mental illness and some people have tried to help. The Egyptians, the Greeks, Medieval doctors, everyone has had a method to understand something so complex as the mind. Victorians are infamous for their treatment of hysteria. When you hear about mental asylums and the treatments, which were sometimes unspeakably cruel, it’s hard to believe that they were just trying to help, but Cummings has an interesting outlook on all this: the methods may have been misguided, but the intent was mostly to cure these diseases. She discusses schizophrenia, the medications that have managed to help, the architecture of the asylums, the historical outlook on the subject and even mental health today. There are some texts from the time, anecdotes and some approachable science. This is a great book for laypeople looking to learn about the issue.

NetGalley, Elisa Rambacher

We can all learn something from Juliana Cummings' new book about the development of mental illness treatments through the ages - an interesting history lesson.

This is an excellent book that provides a comprehensive history of insanity and the asylum. Juliana Cummings does an excellent job of questioning what behaviours and characteristics define insanity, and leads us through a well-researched history of how treatments and institutional structures for caring for the mentally ill have changed over the years.

The book is well-researched and gives a thorough review of the history of insanity and asylums.
It's fascinating to learn about how mental-health treatments and institutional systems evolved and altered throughout time.

The book is filled with interesting anecdotes and examples. If you're interested in learning about psychiatry, mental illness, or just want to know more about history, then this is a book you won't want to miss.

NetGalley, Sophie Lemieux

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This is a tough book to read as it does not shy away from any detail, no matter how harsh, in our society’s history of treatment of the mentally ill. Well researched and carefully sequenced, the book covers the various methods of treatment over time and includes a fascinating section on psychopharmacology. Above all, the author is respectful of the need to balance science with morals, always offering respectful consideration from the perspective of the patient. Really well written - highly recommended.

NetGalley, Louise Gray

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

An in-depth history of the diagnosis and treatment of mentally Ill people from ancient times up until the closure of the Asylums in the NHS.

This is a difficult and somber read.

The author has meticulously researched the subject and I was very impressed with the depth to which she goes into detail.
It’s both fascinating and saddening to read that mental health has always been viewed in a harsh and cruel way, with often brutal and ridiculous ideas of how to cure people.
When you hear the word Asylum you would usually think of Bedlam, the Victorian era alongside a workhouse society, but I have to admit that while I found the entire book uncomfortable to read, I found the chapter on eugenics incredibly disturbing.

This is a very difficult subject to write about and I felt that the author has dedicated hours and hours to finding out as much as possible through research and finding the right tone for the book.

NetGalley, Cheryl Purnell

About Juliana Cummings

Juliana has been writing for over thirty years. From her first publication in her junior high school newspaper to her current writing on Tudor and Medieval History, writing has always been Juliana’s passion in life. While she’s always been interested in history, she discovered that her family lineage led to Tudor Royalty, which pursued her to learn even more. Her interests also lie strongly with other aspects of medieval history, particularly medicine and the macabre.
She continues to write for various publications throughout the United Kingdom and the United States, and her work has been published in History is Now magazine, Matt’s History BlogA Tudor Writing Circle, and Tudor Dynasty. Her books can be found on Amazon, including Sleeping with the Impaler and Medicine in the Middle Ages (Pen and Sword). She writes both non-fiction and historical fiction and can be found on Facebook and Twitter under The Savage Revolt. You can also visit her website, https://thesavagerevolt.com.

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