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Madness in its Place: Narratives of…

Madness in its Place: Narratives of Severalls Hospital 1913-1997 (Memory…

by Diana Gittins

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Having been to Severalls Hospital as an Urban Explorer I was very much taken with not only the architecture and what was left after ten years of dereliction, but also what had happened there. Why had it closed? What were the circumstances that people were admitted there? Was the treatment of patients quite what I had heard anecdotally?

To have this book available to read when visiting the hospital was so very valuable. It helped me to understand some of the quirks of the buildings, and why certain outbuildings (Villas) were in the places that they were. I began to understand why buildings were laid out in the way that I was finding them, how important light and setting was. It was also very valuable to help me understand just how far psychiatry has come over the past 100 years. Severalls was a test bed for a number of techniques and policies during its life. Having those things backed up with historical evidence from photographs, to newspapers and letters reinforced the credibility of the book and the things going on at the hospital. It also showed that not all psychiatry was 'evil' as a lot of people seem to think, and that not every patient hated being there. For some people it truly was a 'asylum' in the strictest meaning of the word.

A book that I now wouldn't be without, and am so very indebted to how much it taught me about such a beautiful and complex place in a both beautiful and complex physical and social setting. ( )
  Wilde | Jul 22, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 041518388X, Paperback)

This fascinating study presents a unique history of psychiatry in the twentieth century. It brings together the memories and narratives of over sixty patients and workers who lived, or were employed, in Severalls Psychiatric Hospital, Essex, UK. Personal accounts are contextualised both in relation to wider developments and issues in twentieth-century mental health, and in relation to policies and changes in the hospital itself.
Organised around the theme of space and place, and drawing upon both quantitative and qualitative material, chapters deal with key areas such as gender divisions, power relations, patterns of admission and discharge, treatments, and the daily lives and routines of patients and nurses of both sexes.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:51 -0400)

This book provides an unusual and very accessible account of trends and changes in the history of psychiatry during the 20th century, while offering a lively narrative of the daily lives of those who worked and lived in a typical psychiatric hospital.… (more)

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