Madness – A Brief History

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In Madness: A Brief History, Roy Porter challenges the beliefs of psychoanalysts, like Thomas Szasz and Michel Foucault, who doubted the legitimacy of mental illnesses and their treatments. This work covers very simple questions in a very thorough manner, such as: "who has been identified as mad What has been thought to cause their condition And, what action has been taken to cure or secure them" (Porter 9). Roy Porter looks at some of the oldest beliefs as to what madness was and finds that not only does madness exist, but that its treatment has also vastly improved over the centuries.


One of the most impressive attributes of this book is the amount of detailed information packed into such a small narrative. Madness is purely factual, yet Ray Porter's way with words is so linguistically enthralling that you can't seem to put it down. The author does an incredible job of organising not only his thoughts, but also countless bits of historical information. Many of the chapters have such fascinating insight into the mindset of different ages. Any individual would most likely find at least one section that catches their eye. I found the "Gods and Demons" chapter especially intriguing, mostly due to the ties people of the time made between spirituality and insanity. In contrast, though it may verge more on the side of aesthetics than actual content, I can't help but adore the quotes at the beginning of each chapter.


My criticisms for this book are few and far between, yet still notable. The largest complaint would probably be the length. I would have loved a more extensive version of this book, but cannot find myself truly too upset considering it is a "brief" history. Secondly, I couldn't help but feel that the writer occasionally came off as a bit pretentious. Roy Porter could have possibly reached a larger audience if he had used more common vernacular. I also found that I had some difficulty understanding bits of the last few chapters, most likely because of my very limited knowledge in the psychiatric field. It was more of a minor inconvenience than anything, and one I didn't really mind. Though I will admit, some topics did require personal research for me to fully grasp them.

I rated this book four stars simply because I had immense fun reading it. The historical content is fascinating and the validation of mental illnesses is surprisingly reassuring, as I am someone who also suffers from a mental disability. I found myself very easily captivated by Madness. I would highly recommend this book to anyone with even the slightest interest in psychology and its relevance to history.


Media Size : 9.3 MB

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