Undertaker of the Mind: John Monro and Mad-Doctoring in Eighteenth-Century England

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As visiting physician to Bethlem Hospital, the archetypal "Bedlam" and Britain's first and (for hundreds of years) only public institution for the insane, Dr. John Monro (1715–1791) was a celebrity in his own day. Jonathan Andrews and Andrew Scull call him a "connoisseur of insanity, this high priest of the trade in lunacy." Although the basics of his life and career are well known, this study is the first to explore in depth Monro's colorful and contentious milieu. Mad-doctoring grew into a recognized, if not entirely respectable, profession during the eighteenth century, and besides being affiliated with public hospitals, Monro and other mad-doctors became entrepreneurs and owners of private madhouses and were consulted by the rich and famous.

Monro's close social connections with members of the aristocracy and gentry, as well as with medical professionals, politicians, and divines, guaranteed him a significant place in the social, political, cultural, and intellectual worlds of his time. Andrews and Scull draw on an astonishing array of visual materials and verbal sources that include the diaries, family papers, and correspondence of some of England's wealthiest and best-connected citizens. The book is also distinctive in the coverage it affords to individual case histories of Monro's patients, including such prominent contemporary figures as the Earls Ferrers and Orford, the religious "enthusiast" Alexander Cruden, and the "mad" King George III, as well as his crazy would-be assassin, Margaret Nicholson.

What the authors make clear is that Monro, a serious physician neither reactionary nor enlightened in his methods, was the outright epitome of the mad-trade as it existed then, esteemed in some quarters and ridiculed in others. The fifty illustrations, expertly annotated and integrated with the text, will be a revelation to many readers.

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Editorial Reviews

Sunday Telegraph
A detailed case history of one of the most eminent mad-doctors of the 18th century, John Monro. The authors handle the historical material with commendable impartiality, and grind no axe. Their book is a valuable contribution not only to medical, but to social history.
Andrews & Scull have produced an in-depth account of the ambiguity surrounding the making of psychiatry in England. This is a product of impressive scholarship worn lightly, and a careful evaluation of the numerous factors that structured the nascent specialist practice of treating the insane. Together with the works of [Roy] Porter and [R.A.] Houston, this book should be essential reading for anyone interested in the making of psychiatry.
Times Literary Supplement
Undertaker of the Mind . . . shows in matchless detail that eighteenth-century mental medicine was so different from ours, not because its practitioners were vicious reactionaries but because, in Georgian England, life itself marched to a different tune.
A remarkable and unrivalled picture of the diagnosis and treatment of madness in eighteenth-century England's hospitals and asylums. In offering an enthralling analysis of both Monro and madness, this book also exemplifies scholarship wed to accessibility.
A remarkable and unrivalled picture of the diagnosis and treatment of madness in eighteenth-century England's hospitals and asylums. In offering an enthralling analysis of both Monro and madness, this book also exemplifies scholarship wed to accessibility.
Library Journal
John Monro was the eminent 18th-century visiting physician responsible for the Bethlem Hospital, the first public institution for the insane in England. Andrews (Oxford Brookes Univ.; They're in the Trade of Lunacy) and Scull (sociology, Univ. of California; The Most Solitary Affliction) show how Monro and other 18th-century physicians treating the insane were part of the medical establishment and closely reflected the culture of the times. They use case studies of Monro's patients to prove that the "mad" physicians worked with fellow doctors and adhered to standard medical practices. While it's not an earth-shattering thesis, it has not been the focus of previous studies in the field. The case studies and the extensive use of period illustrations and publications also reveal how madness was perceived in society. In particular, the authors focus on what was called religious fanaticism and madness in the aristocracy. Written for informed readers, the book contains extensive notes and a good bibliography. Those interested in the history of insanity in England should also consult Roy Porter's Mind-Forg'd Manacles (1987) and Scull's Masters of Bedlam (Princeton Univ., 1996). Recommended for academic collections. Eric D. Albright, Duke Univ. Medical Ctr. Lib., Durham, NC Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520231511
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 11/27/2001
  • Series: Medicine and Society Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 386
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Jonathan Andrews is Senior Lecturer in the School of Humanities, Oxford Brookes University. His publications include The History of Bethlem (1997) and "They're in the Trade of Lunacy" (1998). Andrew Scull, author of Social Order/Mental Disorder (California, 1989; 1992) and The Most Solitary of Afflictions (1993), among other books, is Professor of Sociology and Science Studies at the University of California, San Diego.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
1. John Monro: The Making of a Mad-Doctor
2. The "Real Use" of Discussing Madness: The Great Lunacy Debate
3. Madness in Their Methodism: Religious Enthusiasm, the Mad-Doctors, and the Case of Alexander Cruden
4. Mad as a Lord: Monro and the Case of the Earl of Orford
5. Mansions of Misery: Mad-Doctors and the Mad-Trade
6. Murder Most Foul, Madness Most High: The Courtroom, the Stateroom, and the Misty Summits of the Mad-Doctor's Expertise
Select Bibliography


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