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Peter Barham: Henry Cotton, 18 August 2005

Madhouse: A Tragic Tale of Megalomania and Modern Medicine 
by Andrew Scull.
Yale, 360 pp., £18.95, May 2005, 0 300 10729 3
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... A professor of surgery in Edinburgh in the 1850s confided that patients entering hospital for surgery were ‘exposed to more chances of death than was the English soldier on the field of Waterloo’. By the end of the 19th century, however, Joseph Lister had introduced an effective antisepsis routine, and this, combined with anaesthesia, had transformed surgery (though mortality rates were still high ...

Two Ronnies

Peter Barham, 4 July 1985

Wisdom, Madness and Folly: The Making of a Psychiatrist 
by R.D. Laing.
Macmillan, 147 pp., £9.95, February 1985, 0 333 37075 9
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... Schizophrenia is now held to be one of the major illnesses of mankind, but its recognition as a clinical syndrome is of relatively recent origin. There is something very odd about the sudden arrival of the chronic schizophrenic on the stage of history at the end of the 19th century. One hypothesis which has been canvassed recently is that schizophrenia was a novel condition, unknown before the end of the 18th century, which spread as a slow, possibly viral epidemic across Europe and the United States in the 19th century, contributing in large measure to the vast increase in the population of asylums, and culminating in its recognition, under the name dementia praecox, as a definite syndrome by Emil Kraepelin in 1899 ...


Peter Barham: Madness in the nineteenth century, 17 August 2006

Madness at Home: The Psychiatrist, the Patient and the Family in England 1820-60 
by Akihito Suzuki.
California, 260 pp., £32.50, March 2006, 0 520 24580 6
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... In February 1823, readers of the Times were treated to a detailed account of the goings-on in the home of the third Earl of Portsmouth and his wife of ten years, Mary Anne Hanson. She had for some time been having an affair with William Rowland Alder, a lawyer. The pair abused and mocked Lord Portsmouth, both physically and mentally, even making him a spectator to their fornication ...

Rubbing Shoulders with Unreason

Peter Barham: Foucault's History of Madness, 8 March 2007

History of Madness 
by Michel Foucault, edited by Jean Khalfa, translated by Jonathan Murphy and Jean Khalfa.
Routledge, 725 pp., £35, April 2006, 0 415 27701 9
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... In the 1950s, three individuals, unknown to one another and from different countries, were engaged in what seem, looking back, to have been remarkably similar projects vis-à-vis those whom society designates as mad. One was a philosophy student: ‘I used to work in a psychiatric hospital in the 1950s. After having studied philosophy, I wanted to see what madness was: I had been mad enough to study reason; I was reasonable enough to study madness ...

Newfangled Inner Worlds

Adam Phillips: Malingering, 3 March 2005

Forgotten Lunatics of the Great War 
by Peter Barham.
Yale, 451 pp., £19.99, August 2004, 0 300 10379 4
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... believed, as most German doctors and many of their British colleagues apparently did, that, in Peter Barham’s words, ‘the so-called war neuroses were for the most part not causally connected with the circumstances of the war at all, but were essentially psychological reactions in terrified and weak-willed individuals unwilling or unable to place ...


Adam Morton, 18 April 1985

The Foundations of Psychoanalysis: A Philosophical Critique 
by Adolf Grünbaum.
California, 310 pp., £15.60, December 1984, 0 520 05016 9
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Schizophrenia and Human Value: Chronic Schizophrenia, Science and Society 
by Peter Barham.
Blackwell, 223 pp., £19.50, December 1984, 0 631 13474 3
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... wanting to acknowledge the particular humanness of the situations it confronts. Grünbaum and Barham are concerned with the limits of science from completely opposed points of view and yet drive at peculiarly similar conclusions. Grünbaum considers the evidence for psychoanalysis. He is concerned mostly with psychoanalysis as presented in Freud’s ...

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