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Broadmoor Revealed: Victorian Crime and the…

Broadmoor Revealed: Victorian Crime and the Lunatic Asylum

by Mark Stevens

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Mark Stevens reveals what life was like for the criminally insane over 100 years ago. He uncovers the lost lives of patients whose mental illnesses led them to become involved in crime; and he reveals new perspectives on some of the hospital's most famous Victorian patients.

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My first ever Kindle read – and what a cracking one! I love books that deal with social history and I love the Victorian period so what’s not to love! Stevens writes about cases using Broadmoor’s archive. Cases include those of Victorian artist Richard Dabb and ‘the chocolate poisoner’, Christiana Edmunds.

Dabb was featured on a programme Jeremy Paxman did on BBC1 a few years ago called 'The Victorians' about artists and art of that period, which was an excellent series, so it was nice to read a bit more about him. Dadd, thought now to be suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, murdered his father and fled to France, where he was quickly captured. He remained institutionalised for the remainder of his life.

Christiana Edmunds turned poisoner after the married doctor she was having a relationship with broke off that relationship – first she tried poisoning the doctor’s wife and then began buying chocolates from a shop in Brighton where she lived, lacing them with poison and then returning them as ‘unwanted’. They were then bought by unsuspecting members of the public. She was eventually discovered and she, like Dadd, spent the rest of her life locked up.

The book also explores other lesser-known, but equally interesting cases, and also examines women in the asylum and various escape bids. Thoroughly interesting and really recommended. It is currently only available for download – over Christmas it was one of the most downloaded titles from Amazon, which might mean Stevens gets a paper deal – he certainly deserves one!
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  Bagpuss | Jan 17, 2016 |
Stevens is an archivist, and this very competent 'brief history' of Broadmoor is really an archivist's book. He has trawled out some genuinely interesting stories, and given them context in a very concise narrative history of the UK's premier institute for the criminally insane. It's the sort of book you'd select if you were going to go on a tour there, except there are no tours because it still operates as a high security 'hospital'. If you knew nothing about it you'd know more about it after reading this book, but you wouldn't really know much about the debate between disease and criminality that has been going on since Broadmoor was established in 1863. You'd also miss out on a potentially interesting discussions about how this category of patient has been dealt with in other countries, and about the problems of managing and staffing such institutions. For that sort of information you have to go to the texts referred to in Stevens excellent bibliography, and it's a measure of the success of his book that I am actually inspired to do so. Short(ish) and sweetly done, with some fine photographs, I'd recommend this as an introduction to the subject, and an attractive addition to any collection of books on penology and/or mental health institutions. ( )
  nandadevi | Jan 18, 2014 |
A really excellent book. The stories are well told and illuminate not only the history of the institution, but also the societal values and circumstances surrounding crime, mental illness, medicine, and to some degree philanthropy. Kindled my interest in the topic. I'll be looking for more, definitely! ( )
  MissSokal | Nov 23, 2013 |
An engaging, if not completely absorbing, read. Nice bibliography at the end. Stevens does a nice job evoking what the daily life of the typical Broadmoor patient was like during the Victorian era. It seems they were treated not only humanely, but well -- much different than the impressions I had for that time. I guess my impressions were derived from Moore's FROM HELL, or something. It seems Broadmoor was a benevolent place that often did its patients good. It couldn't cure everyone, of course, but the directors (particularly Orange) clearly cared about the patients. ( )
1 vote stacy_chambers | Aug 22, 2013 |
Mental illness and the Victorians? Oh, yeah. Sue pointed out that it was free today, and I couldn't resist.
1 vote Kaethe | Mar 29, 2013 |
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