“Madness: A Brief History”; By Ross Porter: A Review

This is a small book covering a large topic — the history of the treatment of mentally ill patients. Since this is short book with lots of illustrations, I’ll give it a short review — PASS. Although a short book on mental illness treatment seems like a good idea, it’s not. You just cannot do justice to this subject in a hundred pages (or so.)

I was very disappointed with this book published by Oxford University Press in 2008. Madness: A Brief History has two very repetitive chapters (to the point where they were nearly identical). Modern treatment only got a brief mention. Causes of mental illness gets no mention, unless it related to the history of how patients were treated.

The history of Bedlam (the popular name for England’s Bethlem Royal Hospital) was a rare high point, as well as how Freud came to his theory of infant sexuality. There are some nice quotes as well to introduce the chapters.

This was one of Roy Porter’s last books before his tragic early death in 2002 at the age of 55 from a heart attack while exercising. I hope his other ones were better than this one.


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