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‘Am I Mad?’: The Windham Case and Victorian Resistance to Psychiatry

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/12/2019
<mark>Journal</mark>History of Psychiatry
Issue number4
Volume30
Number of pages12
Pages (from-to)457-468
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date1/08/19
<mark>Original language</mark>English

Abstract

This article revisits the notorious trial of William Windham, a wealthy young man accused of lunacy. The trial in 1861-2 saw the country's foremost experts on psychological medicine very publicly debate the concepts, symptoms and diagnosis of insanity. I begin by surveying the trial and the testimonies of medical experts. Their disparate assessments of Windham evoked heated reactions in the press and Parliament; these reactions are the focus of the second section. I then proceed to examine criticism of psychiatry in the newspapers more generally in the 1860s, outlining the political resistance to psychiatry and the responses of some leading psychiatrists. In conclusion, I consider what this says about the politics of medicalization at the time.