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Madness, Murder and Mayhem (Hardback)

Criminal Insanity in Victorian and Edwardian Britain

British History True Crime Social History

By Dr John Burt, Kathryn Burtinshaw
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 182
ISBN: 9781526734556
Published: 2nd October 2018


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Following an assassination attempt on George III in 1800, new legislation significantly altered the way the criminally insane were treated by the judicial system in Britain. This book explores these changes and explains the rationale for purpose-built criminal lunatic asylums in the Victorian era.

Specific case studies are used to illustrate and describe some of the earliest patients at Broadmoor Hospital – the Criminal Lunatic Asylum for England and Wales and the Criminal Lunatic Department at Perth Prison in Scotland. Chapters examine the mental and social problems that led to crime alongside individuals considered to be weak-minded, imbeciles or idiots. Family murders are explored as well as individuals who killed for gain. An examination of psychiatric evidence is provided to illustrate how often an insanity defence was used in court and the outcome if the judge and jury did not believe these claims. Two cases are discussed where medical experts gave evidence that individuals were mentally irresponsible for their crimes but they were led to the gallows.

Written by genealogists and historians, this book examines and identifies individuals who committed heinous crimes and researches the impact crime had on themselves, their families and their victims.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This is a a thorough and interesting account of the origins of secure hospitals in the UK. I did have some reservations about this book, only because the cover made it look a little like those 'cut and paste' regional crime books. It is broken into categories that make it a much more clear read - other books on the subject can wander around a little.

NetGalley, reviewed by Emma Vine

It was a fascinating read and it has made me interested in learning more about the subject.

NetGalley, reviewed by Gayle Noble

The book was written in a clear and uncomplicated manner I enjoyed it till the last few chapters when I found it started to become repetitive. This is only my opinion and does not mean to say that somebody else would not find it an interesting and enjoyable read.

NetGalley, reviewed by S Ballinger

A cohesive and useful account of the history of mental health treatment.

NetGalley, reviewed by Gemma Allen

About Dr John Burt

Dr John Burt is a professional genealogist and family historian based in Edinburgh. A retired general medical practitioner, he has held a lifelong fascination in Scottish social history. He graduated in Medicine in 1983 and holds a M.Sc. in Genealogical, Palaeographic and Heraldic Studies from the University of Strathclyde. John was an honorary clinical tutor to the School of Medicine, University of St Andrews, 2010-2013. John specialises in medieval, military and medical records.

About Kathryn Burtinshaw

Kathryn Burtinshaw is an experienced researcher who holds an Advanced Diploma in Local History from Oxford University and a M.Sc. in Genealogy, Palaeography and Heraldry from the University of Strathclyde. Kathryn runs her own genealogy company, Pinpoint Ancestry, and lives in North Wales.

Perfect Partner

Lunatics, Imbeciles and Idiots A History of Insanity in Nineteenth-Century Britain and Ireland (Hardback)

In the first half of the nineteenth-century treatment of the mentally ill in Britain and Ireland underwent radical change. No longer manacled, chained and treated like wild animals, patient care was defined in law and medical understanding, and treatment of insanity developed. Focussing on selected cases, this new study enables the reader to understand how progressively advancing attitudes and expectations affected decisions, leading to better legislation and medical practice throughout the century. Specific mental health conditions are discussed in detail and the treatments patients received…

By Dr John Burt, Kathryn Burtinshaw

Click here to buy both titles for £35.98
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