January 29, 2017

Friday group reading on insanity

Writing about web page http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/history/students/modules/hi398/timetable/insanity/

Please could you look at the following:

Dan - Smith

Ella - Shephard

Anna S - Marland

Robin - Tighe

Anna B - Walker (vol 1 look at section on 19th century)

Kieran - Robinson

Helen - Skultans

Victoria - Kelly

Lewis - Jackson

Alice - Harris

Ellie - Eigen

Rachel - Prior

James - Andrews


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  1. Victoria Rowedder

    Brendan Kelly, ‘Poverty Crime and Mental Illness…’
    Kelly attempt to examine the circumstances and experiences of women admitted to the central criminal Lunatic Asylum in Dublin.
    He begins by doing an overview of the Irish dealing of lunacy as whole and why the rates are perhaps higher than in its British and Welsh counterparts. This can be seen in Tuke’s assessment that between 1875 and 1893 the number of ‘certified lunatics’ in Ireland increased by 60% compared to 22% in England and Wales. He discusses how in Ireland the vast majority of forensic psychiatric (places of care for individuals with mental illness who engage in offending behaviour) admissions are from deprived inner-city areas.
    Tuke felt like the increase was partly due to the ‘political tumults’, by this he is referring to the Home Rule struggle that Ireland was struggling through. Yet this could have also be linked to the impact that the Great Famine had and the reverberations it had on further generations. It also could be because of the fact that there were more asylum beds as legislation made it law for ‘districts’ to build asylums there was more room to transfer unruly workhouse inmates.
    The development between crime and mental illness also developed during this period largely because the idea of an ‘insanity defence’. This created a tension between medical and legal professions a there was an increased role of medical evidence in court cases. Thus meaning defence and prosecution lawyers sought the help of medical experts. This is where he Central Lunatic Asylum came in, as it was the 1st institute for the criminally insane.
    In the case of female admissions between the years 1910 and 1948 admissions to the central lunatic asylum steadily decreased having a total of 42 women admitted. A various a crimes that included: killing, assault, infanticide, malicious damage, attempted murder and larceny, which were said to have caused: depression, mania, melancholia, dementia, epileptic insanity and neurasthenia. These women also tended to be from socially deprived backgrounds which proved sometimes detrimental to their diagnosis. Social influence had the greatest influence over the fate of the women.
    A large female crime that ended in many admissions into the Central Criminal Lunatic Asylum was infanticide. Until 1949 infanticide was equivalent to murder in Ireland. This leads Kelly to comment on the long-standing tendency by juries to reach verdicts other than ‘infanticide’ in order to avoid sentencing someone to death. This is undoubtedly is influenced by the fact in this period the juries would have been all-male and they may have held greater guilt sentencing a woman to death. Yet, it was not only the reluctance to sentence death that led women to the lunatic asylum but also a broader based acceptance of infanticide. The medical term ‘puerperal insanity’ strengthened the association between infanticide and insanity. This highlights the medical rather than criminal dimensions of the act. This ‘medical’ approach was reflected in the fact that infanticide was largely a classless crime, by which it was committed by both lower and upper class women. The fact the crime was played out by women of higher social class as well promoted the more acceptable description of infanticide in medical terms. Furthermore, contemporary efforts to establish psychiatry as a respected branch of medicine contributed to the psychiatric ‘appropriation’ of infanticide often via ‘puerperal insanity’. This all adds to the fact that Kelly describes women as being believed to be susceptible to insanity for ‘moral’ reasons rather than physical ones.
    Essentially the women committed to the Central Criminal lunatic Asylum had faced substantial social, medical and psychiatric challenges during one of the most politically and economically unstable phases in recent Irish history.

    31 Jan 2017, 21:54

  2. Ella Rees

    Jade Shepherd debunks previous scholarship about paternal child-murder and its surrounding implications of insanity. Shepherd describes how the existing historiography has neglected paternal cases, following the lead of Victorian psychiatrists by focusing on infanticidal women and questions surrounding illegitimacy, poverty and puerperal insanity. Scholars have also suggested that murderous fathers were treated as savage tyrants – and more harshly than mothers who killed their children. By contrast, Shepherd questions two existing assumptions: first, that it was only women who were thought to be going against nature if they killed their child; and second, that only women regularly and successfully pleaded insanity in such cases. Her most significant body of evidence is 60 cases of paternal child-murderers committed to Broadmoor for insanity from 1869-1900, which she uses to explore why they attained verdicts of insanity over murder convictions and how this interplays with Victorian models of fatherhood.

    The Victorian model of fatherhood placed high importance on protecting your children. At a time of high infant mortality, death or disease frequently meant men were not able to live up to this expectation, leading to intense anxiety and hopelessness.This itself created the terrible paradox of fathers killing their children when they felt they could not adequately protect them, particularly in cases of poverty where death was preferable to starving to death. Providing for your wife and children was a key component of Victorian masculinity and therefore impoverished fathers had not only failed their families, but themselves as men. Child murders seemingly inspired by this motive got a lot of sympathy from courts, leading to verdicts of insanity. Similarly to women who were tried for infanticide being given a verdict of insanity as it was seen to be an act fundamentally against female nature, paternal child-murder went against conceptions of the loving and protective father, meaning that insanity was a natural way of explaining these murders.

    Being seen as a bad father before the crime would massively increase the chances of a murder conviction as Victorian judges were trying to push this new model of the caring father and would have almost no sympathy for a father who had a history of domestic violence towards his victims.
    The press endorsed a specific paternal identity, with protection and provision, love, temperance and industriousness at its core. The court provided legal reinforcement of such notions: judges and juries condemned the behaviour of convicted fathers who had fallen short of such ideals and tended to see fathers who had previously conformed to notions of appropriate fatherhood as insane.

    Once inside Broadmoor paternal child-murderers were three times more likely to be discharged than men who committed other crimes, spending an average of eleven years in the asylum. Broadmoor was supposed to help these men regain the confidence, industriousness and caring nature identified with the loving fathers they had once been.

    To conclude, this article revealed that paternal child murderers who fitted the Victorian conception of masculinity and fatherhood were much more likely to be given a verdict of insanity than previously thought and recognised. This Victorian conception of fatherhood saw the father as a loving, caring tender character who was protective and hard-working. The evidence suggests that childless men, bad fathers and neglectful husbands were convicted and sometimes hanged for child murder, but if it could be shown that infanticidal men had previously fulfilled their duties as husbands and fathers, they tended to be considered insane and committed to Broadmoor. There was still a gender gap in their treatment once in the asylum and verdicts handed down to those considered as drunkards or abusers but this gap is nowhere near as large as previously presented.

    01 Feb 2017, 01:56

  3. Dan Ewers

    Roger Smith, ‘The Boundary Between Insanity and Criminal Responsibility in Nineteenth-Century England’, in Andrew Scull (ed.), Madhouses, Mad-Doctors, and Madmen: The Social History of Psychiatry in the Victorian Era, (London, 1981), pp. 363-384

    In his essay, Roger Smith highlights three questions examined through the study of the history of insanity defences:

    1. It criticises the historical thesis that since the 1750-1850 period individual and social problems have been increasingly described in relation to medical concepts and therapies. New professionalization had a profound effect upon society but it was only in the twentieth century that the insanity defence became more successful.
    2. Smith examines ideas that medical knowledge carried with it public acceptability. Smith argues that we must examine wider sociolegal relationships in order to discern more about the history of insanity pleas.
    3. Argument over the proper relations of psychiatry and law – the insanity defence has always aroused discussion over its relationship with the administration of the law.

    The insanity plea has its origins in medieval law, as it required certain states of mind as a necessary condition of guilt. The insanity defence became linked with medical accounts in the nineteenth century, with increasing reliance on evidence given by medical practitioners, and the plea itself garnered associations with murder trials and capital punishment in the popular imagination.

    Smith examines four lesser known insanity trials from the 1850s, which I shall summarise below:

    1. Trial of Luigi Buranelli – Buranelli experienced melancholia and delusions after the death of his wife, becoming violent, ungovernable, and suicidal. The crime occurred in 1855 when Buranelli’s mistress broke away. Buranelli later shot his landlord dead, and rushed upstairs with the intention of shooting both his mistress and himself, but he was prevented from doing so. Jury returned a guilty verdict, and evidence was presented by medical witness Thomas Mayo, who argued Buranelli suffered from hypochondriacal illusions. Buranelli was viewed as responsible for his character and was hanged.
    2. Case of Charles Westron, 1856 – Westron murdered his solicitor, Mr. Waugh, in broad daylight on a London street. Westron was a “cripple” and the defence presented a long history of symptoms of insanity. The verdict from the jury read “we find the prisoner guilty of wilful murder. We do not think he ought to be acquitted on the ground of insanity, but we recommend him to mercy because in this case there were strong dispositions to insanity”. Westron was committed firstly to Milbank Prison and Bethlem some time later.
    3. Case of William Dove, 1856 – accused of murdering his wife with strychnine over an extended period. Prosecution brought strong case of intended action whilst case of defence rested on argument that Dove was insane, being either prevented from knowing the act was wrong or of suffering a strong impulse to do it. Dove’s life history was examined, who had been irrationally violent, difficult, and had written a letter to the Devil in his own blood in jail. Jury returned a guilty verdict and Dove was hanged.
    4. Case of Mary Ann Brough – in June 1854 Brough cut the throats of her six children and attempted to cut her own. Her defence of insanity was successful. Brough spoke of how her mind was like a black cloud, and medical practitioners argued that it was possible that she lost control of her body due to emotional excitement. ‘The extreme and exceptional nature of the crime, coupled with awe and humanitarian sentiment towards a mother who had killed her children,… led to the acquittal’.

    01 Feb 2017, 17:07

  4. Rachel Blake

    Prior in this book examines how criminal lunatics were treated in the 19th century and the link between asylums and prisons in Ireland. It is stated that following a 1804 report known as The Report of the Select Committee on the Aged and Infirm Poor of Ireland, that little was being done for ‘idiots or insane persons’ which triggered the start of attempts to build more asylums in Ireland. By 1900 there were 22 asylums in Ireland providing 16,000 beds.
    However Prior focuses on how the criminally insane were treated in asylums and prisons, the differences in gender treatment, and looks at the issues asylums had – particularly focussing on an asylum called Dundrum which opened in 1850. Dundrum was used as base for most troublesome and dangerous inmates, but due to high demand it was often overcrowded. However despite the high demand that was greater than the capacity, Dundrum was used as a good example to other asylums – although this was mainly due to the fact it had a higher level of skilled workers on higher wages as skill/experience required to deal with these dangerous inmates in comparison to other asylums which had less skilled nurses and a wide range of wages.
    Regarding how men and women were treated in asylums, Prior notes how men were the predominant gender in asylums; in Dundrum between 1850 and 1900 only 21% admissions were women. Women were difficult to deal with in the prison system, as the only ways they could be punished for bad behaviour was with solitary confinement or a diet of bread and water. Women were usually more likely to receive free discharge, with women who had killed children most likely to regain their sanity the quickest.
    There were problems in the prison system, the most predominant being that ‘lunatics’ could be discharged as sane from an asylum but not in a prison. Meaning that in order to be discharged they had to be in an asylum, but due to limited places available many were forced to stay in prison or not receive help. Those found insane before or during the trial, or who were found ‘guilty but insane’ could not be discharged w/out the specific permission of Lord Lieutenant, even if they showed no signs of insanity Other problems include how prison officers complained the presence of lunatics made discipline difficult, leading to in 1867 admission of ‘dangerous lunatics’ to prisons became illegal. As well as that asylum managers complained they had no control over no. of lunatic being transferred from prisons.

    02 Feb 2017, 15:53

  5. Kieran Sargent

    Daniel N. Robinson, a distinguished historian of psychology, pores over centuries of written law, statements by legal commentators, summaries of crimes, and punishments, to interrogate from these sources an understanding of epochal views of responsibility and competence. The piece itself takes a largely linear narrative, framing the argument around key stages in history. From the Greek age to the seventeenth century, Robinson takes us through history and provides the intricate story of how the insanity defence has been construed as a meeting point of the law and those professions that chart human behaviour and conduct: namely religion, medicine, and psychology. The result is a rare historical account of “insanity” within Western civilisation.

    Wild Beasts and Idle Humours provides brief summaries for the major figures involved in both law and psychology, a helpful contextualization. Indeed, the central problems to adjudicating the insane are the delicacy in probing the motivations of the individual’s actions and the difficulty in understanding those motivations in the context of legality. It is only in this day and age that we have managed to grasp the concept, according to Robinson. He notes that the lack of understanding in biology greatly inhibited any real gains with regards to law and insanity, particularly between 1400 – 1700 with regards to the witch trials.

    Robinson concludes that we must be careful in integrating law within other disciplines, especially ones whose scope is significantly wider and less rigid. This is framed through the ability of doctors and other non-legal roles to decide legal issues. Indeed, the ‘Daubert’ case in the Supreme court is used as an example. Robinson notes, ‘if History is any guide, the mentally wayward have suffered more at the hands of experts’ than from the common sense of the common jury. From a standpoint in the development of fair and just legal processes, it makes little difference whether these are medical or not.

    02 Feb 2017, 16:31

  6. Alice Norton

    Murders and Madness– Ruth Harris

    The Book examines the development of the French legal system and how it dealt with the problem of insanity and crime. There is a particular emphasis on the Monomania controversies in the 1820s and 1830s. Harris aims to assess restraint of courts to unjustly condemn a lunatic and analyses the theories, assumptions and techniques that came into play when determining the responsibility of defendants and deciding what to do with them. She argues that the debate surrounding crime and madness reached a new and important turning point in the fin de siècle. In this era, psychiatric notions of mental activity, revised analyses of the criminal mind, and changing strategies of crime prevention and control undermined the traditional bases of the French judicial system. The period saw a thorough-going reassessment of the principles of punishment and a marked shift towards deterministic explanations of anti-social behaviour, most forcefully and coherently articulated by psychiatric who routinely intervened in court as expert witnesses

    • Debate over crime and madness originated in the 1820’s when a small group of physicians spoke on behalf of a series of defendants accused of brutal crimes such as murder, cannibalism, rape and mutilation. – physicians categorized them as ‘instinctive monomaniacs’- audacious assertions were opposed by jurists who sought to prevent interference with what they considered to be the proper workings of justice – rejected the doctors claims because they adhered to the principles underpinning the 1810 penal code.
    • The role of criminal justice was to threaten criminal with inevitable punishment, dispensed in quantities which exactly matched the seriousness of the deed- this led to a self-interested tendency to obey the law.
    • The penal theories that existed at the time reside firmly on a belief in rationality as a constant and universal feature of human nature. Accordingly, individuals were to be punished not just for breaking the law, but because the possessed awareness of wrongdoing and had intentionally committed crimes. Consequently the code made special provisions for individuals who could not be held responsible for the virtue of their irrationality. The insane, who were deprived of reason were hence considered to be dispossessed of moral agency and of responsibility. Article 64 states that ‘there is neither a crime not a misdemeanor when the defendant was in a state of insanity at the moment of the act, or when he was constrained by force against which he could not resist’- this article was not a cause of struggle or dispute INITIALLY.
    • However, such an easy agreement of human rationality, moral responsibility, and the attributes of insanity were not to continue, and it is out of the breakdown of consensus that the controversies and reorientations described in the book derived.
    • As Goldstein has shown, a shift in the cultural perception of insanity occurred between the 1780’s and the mid-1820’s.
    • There was intense debate over management of offenders- derived from two seemingly incompatible interpretations of human nature- Monomania controversies in the 1820’s and 1830’s earned practitioners a judicial role.
    • To help in evaluating whether the individual was insane the court sought to find out motivations, character, and past history and thus, the court would call in an expert from the medical profession to assess physical evidence of sudden death, performing autopsies.
    • Also customary to call in a psychiatrist, in Paris these were experts in the sub-speciality of la medicine legale des alienes (lunatics).
    • Now free to disseminate and develop their scientific analysis of ‘mind’ psychiatrists were aided by such potent allies as Paul Bert, Professor of Physiology at the Sorbonne
    • The debate over crime and madness inspired an attempt to revise penal law, to bring the process of trial and condemnation more into line with scientific developments.

    02 Feb 2017, 17:20

  7. Helen Oakes

    Skultans, Madness and Morals: Ideas on Insanity in the 19th Century
    This text is a source book containing contributions from various psychiatrists/doctors/intellectuals. I concentrated on the chapter 9 (Idiocy, Criminal Lunacy and Pauper Lunacy). This chapter begins with sources explaining the difference between Congenital Idiocy and Acquired Idiocy.
    -Congenital Idiotism is said to be present from birth, and the physical characteristics of those suffering from it are described in detail (thick lips, unhealthy gums, position of eyes, formation of head). Those with congenital idiotism are only treatable by the encouragement of occupation, and should be discouraged from reproducing.
    -Acquired Idiocy instead occurs from injury, or may follow from excess.
    -By the later 19th century, sources picked instead focus on the link between criminality and idiocy. Henry Maudsley (a psychiatrist) strongly supported the idea that habitual criminals were moral imbeciles and thus punishment was ineffective: ‘there is among criminals a distinct and incurable criminal class marked by low physical and mental characteristics’
    -In all sources included after 1873, there is a mention of heredity, with explanations that the existence of criminals, paupers, drunkards, lunatics and suicides is mainly due to inheritance.

    The evolution of opinion links well to the introduction of this book, which explains the changes in philosophical thought surrounding insanity. There were two main schools of thought.
    -Moral causes: Links to ideas of individualism and laissez-faire attitudes. Notion that by limiting excess and exerting willpower, you can overcome moral deficiencies
    Heredity causes: Links to theories of degeneration/social darwinism Idea that some people have underdeveloped brains, and thus cannot escape their insanity.

    02 Feb 2017, 17:38

  8. James Baxter-Derrington

    From stack-firing to pyromania: medico-legal concepts of insane arson in British, US and European contexts, c.1800-1913 – Jonathan Andrews

    Andrews seeks to redress the lack of academic study into conceptions of pyromania across the period above, focusing largely on Britain, whilst delving now and then into European and US affairs. He charts the progress of pyromania becoming a recognised condition, accepted in the courtroom, from its previously unknown status, which left the mentally ill incarcerated rather than in need of aid. He draw many criticisms of how long and convoluted this process was, and still finds many issues with its status today.

    The irrational desire for firestarting was initially only considered in the context of a larger plea of insanity, of which pyromania was simply a symptom. As the time progressed, it became listed under mono-mania, many of which include conditions such as kleptomania – essentially this was to reduce the need of the accused to appear insane, simply to have an irrational desire for a single act. At times the condition has been limited to children and adults whose development had been stunted, rendering them akin to children, and at other times it has been reserved for those who have an understanding, but irrational disregard, for the law.

    He charts the acceptance of the condition across the different geographical locations, noting the assassination of President Garfield slowed the acceptance of any mental conditions in the US system. Europe was more largely accepting of pyromania than either the US or Britain, but none of the three were overwhelmingly sold on the idea, especially compared to other mono-manias.

    The article goes to highlight not only the skepticism that existed at the times of the legal systems and medical journals developing, never quite reaching a decision as to just how legitimate pyromania is as an idea, but also how this was reflected in academia, from the period right up to his own contemporaries, marking just how little it has ever been discussed.

    02 Feb 2017, 23:45

  9. Robin Sykes

    In this chapter, Janet Tighe writes about how the American legal profession has played a subtle but often significant role in framing disease. This is a particularly neglected area with scholarly interest being directed more to doctors, patients, social workers and nurses amongst others.
    With the role played by American lawyers in psychiatric diagnosis taking many different forms, Tighe examines two of the most prominent. Firstly, the law’s role in leading public debate over mental disease definitions supplied by the psychiatric profession, and secondly, the law’s role in creating an elaborate set of expert testimony rules. The primary analytical focus of the chapter is on the gap between medical and legal definitions of mental illness and the struggle of the two professions to bridge it.

    Tighe covers the 19th Century discussion surrounding the fear that psychiatry was being used to shield people who were evil rather than ill, which grew out of the fact that the main symptom of many supposed instances of moral insanity was antisocial or criminal behaviour. In this discussion she mentions how many of the new psychological theories like moral insanity were cast in materialistic terms that reduced all mental activity to functions of the brain and nervous system. This determinism, Tighe argues, was increasingly allied with reductionist theories of hereditary taint and anthropological degeneration. She particularly stresses that by the 1880s, American physicians concerned with mental illness started to look at law. They found disconcerting things such as a growing legal perception that the moral insanity controversy revealed a basic weakness in all psychiatric knowledge that if doctors could not agree among themselves over diagnosis, they couldn’t speak with any authority about any disease.

    03 Feb 2017, 01:31

  10. Anna Blackbourn

    Nigel Walker, Crime and Insanity in England, vols. 1
    Introduction-
    Important to distinguish between mental abnormality and mental disorder (c)
    Chapter 5- M’Naghten’s Case and the Rules
    In mid 19th c important changes took place in the system of law enforcement, trial and punishment (84)
    Often the policeman who had to cope with the disturbances created by the mentally disordered- court frequent and important witness (84)
    Another witness= gaol surgeon, appointment of surgeons or physicians under Peel’s administration (84)
    In 18th century, if criminal quitted as insane he might be consigned to a goal or to the care of relatives- the results was that lawyers and administrators were more familiar with the madmen who had been excused than with his counterpart who had not. During first part of 19th c this situation was radially altered, capital punishment was restricted until in practice it was retained only for murder, those excused from punishment because of their insanity were gradually transferred from the gaols to the asylums, and eventually most of them were concentrated in Broadmoor (84-5)
    Newer asylums were deliberately sited away from the towns in the peace of the countryside- lunatic no longer a familiar sight (85)
    Judicial statistics show- 1) persons unfit for trial and 2) persons who successfully offered insanity defences as percentages of persons arraigned for trial (85)
    In 1830s insanity defences were then about 3 times as frequent as they had been in the 1740s- occurred nearly 8 times a year at Old Bailey (88)
    Physicians started to publish books on the relationship between insanity and legal responsibility both in its civil and in its criminal aspects e.g. American doctor Isaac ray- A Treatise on the Medical Jurisprudence of Insanity (1838). The burden of his arguments was that, taken singly or together, such tests as knowledge of the nature of the act, ability to tell right from wrong, or delusion, were much too narrow a test of criminal responsibility, and that in civil law the criterion was far more generous- Ray influenced by code of Napoleon which was very generous (89-90)
    Case of Daniel M’Naghten- suffered a form of insanity which concentrated his animosity on a person of eminence, 1843 tried to kill Sir Robert Peel the Prime Minister, confused Drummond the PM’s private secretary for Peel shot him in the back, but a constable restrained him (90-1)
    Within a fortnight M’Naghten put on trial, but his counsel successfully applied for a postponement. Noticeable that the prosecution offered no evidence by medical witnesses who had examined the prisoner, although in fact M’Naghten had undergone a joint examination by 2 doctors from each side. Cockburn the defence attorney – had to establish that not merely that partial insanity was within the law’s interpretation of insanity, and that M’Naghten was partially insane; but also that his partial insanity in some way excused him. Argued that the prisoner’s insanity ‘takes away from him all power of self-control’ (92-4)
    Prosecution speech- Nature of delusion- ‘he must be considered in the same situation as to responsibility as if the facts with respect to which the delusion exists were real’ From the legal point of view the answers are unexceptionable, If the insanity of the accused is limited to a delusion, then only a delusion which if true, would have justified his act in law will excuse him from the penalty (99)
    Effort to deal with the ambiguity of the word ‘wrong’, in the early decades of the 19th century judges do not seem to have distinguished between moral wrongness and illegality (101)

    03 Feb 2017, 09:04


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