Shelf Control #33 – 06/08/2021
Happy Friday and welcome to today’s Shelf Control post! Shelf Control is a regular feature here on Reviewsfeed and is a meme run by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies. It’s a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up!
For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out Lisa’s introductory post.
I like to share these posts on a regular basis as it gives me the opportunity to continually review the books on my TBR. I can also decide if I still want to read them, or whether perhaps my reading taste has changed and it’s no longer for me. A lot of the early books on my list were added several years ago now; that’s quite a lot of time for my opinion to change. What I have found, since doing the series, is that I have taken a few books off this list. It’s a productive activity, and it gives me some bookish content that I can share with you. And who knows, by featuring those books I still want to read, maybe I can introduce you to something that will take your fancy as well!
This week’s featured book is a non-fiction novel. In the grand scheme I’d say these are in the minority on my list, however there are certain subjects that I will go back to again and again. Psychology is one of them. I studied psychology at school and having really loved the subject, I’ve always kept in touch with a little. It’s not an exact science and I love all the history of the ‘science’ of dealing with mind. That is particularly important for today’s featured book, as it looks at how psychology and mental illness was treated in the 19th century.
Lunatics, Imbeciles and Idiots: A History of Insanity in Nineteenth-Century Britain and Ireland – Kathryn Burtinshaw & John Burt
Goodreads – Lunatics, iImbeciles and Idiots
In the first half of the nineteenth-century treatment of the mentally ill in Britain and Ireland underwent radical change. No longer manacled, chained and treated like wild animals, patient care was defined in law and medical understanding, and treatment of insanity developed.
Focussing on selected cases, this new study enables the reader to understand how progressively advancing attitudes and expectations affected decisions, leading to better legislation and medical practice throughout the century. Specific mental health conditions are discussed in detail and the treatments patients received are analysed in an expert way. A clear view of why institutional asylums were established, their ethos for the treatment of patients, and how they were run as palaces rather than prisons giving moral therapy to those affected becomes apparent. The changing ways in which patients were treated, and altered societal views to the incarceration of the mentally ill, are explored. The book is thoroughly illustrated and contains images of patients and asylum staff never previously published, as well as first-hand accounts of life in a nineteenth-century asylum from a patients perspective.
Written for genealogists as well as historians, this book contains clear information concerning access to asylum records and other relevant primary sources and how to interpret their contents in a meaningful way.
To an extent I touched on some of the topics I expect to be in this book as part of my course. With that in mind, I would say it’s probably not for those of the faint-hearted. Early psychological treatment was barbaric. I’m sure it seemed innovative at the time, but back in the day there was very little understanding of how the mind actually worked and how it could be treated (other than by brute force). I leave it at that, in case any of you are on the squeamish side I don’t want the details!
To think how far along treatment has come in just a comparatively short time, there is a lot that can be covered in this book. It will build upon the topics that I enjoyed at school and I’m also interested to see how changes in the law impacted the subject.
It’s a slightly unusual one, but I’m really interested to see what this book has to offer and I’m looking forward to learning something new!