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How Madness Shaped History: An Eccentric Array of Maniacal Rulers, Raving Narcissists, and Psychotic Visionaries

How Madness Shaped History: An Eccentric Array of Maniacal Rulers, Raving Narcissists, and Psychotic Visionaries

by Christopher J. Ferguson


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This book considers the impact of psychology on world events, looking at how mental illness and personality disorders have affected history. How have mental illness and personality disorders influenced history? This lively investigation demonstrates that, when conditions are ripe, one unstable individual can create the best or worst moments of a generation or even a century. Beginning with Alexander the Great, whose megalomania caused widespread bloodshed yet powerfully shaped world history through the spread of Greek culture, the author examines the various forms of mental illness among people of great influence. These includes emperors, like the Romans Caligula and Elagabalus, kings like George III of England and Charles II of Spain, and lesser known rulers such as sixteenth-century Hungarian noblewoman Elizabeth Bathory, who is in the Guinness World Records as the most prolific female serial killer of all time. In more recent times, the author considers the mental instability exhibited by dictators Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and Idi Amin, as well as female prison guard Irma Grese, whose cruelties at Auschwitz were infamous. He also discusses rumors of cognitive decline among American presidents Woodrow Wilson, Ronald Reagan, and Donald Trump, and the ways in which American democracy copes with the disability of its leaders. And he considers cases where whole societies seem to be gripped by the madness of mob rule. Ferguson concludes with an eye toward the future, considering the power of social media to amplify fringe ideas, giving extremist and outright crazy perspectives greater exposure and influence than ever before.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781633885745
Publisher: Prometheus Books
Publication date: 04/07/2020
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 1,112,471
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Christopher J. Ferguson is a professor of psychology at Stetson University in Florida. His research and clinical work explore issues of crime, violence, and antisocial behavior. He has also researched and written on the impact of media on viewers, including violent video games, sex in the media, and suicide-themed media. He is the author (with Patrick M. Markey) of Moral Combat: Why the War on Violent Video Games Is Wrong; Media Psychology 101; Adolescents, Crime, and the Media; and the mystery novel Suicide Kings. He is the editor of Violent Crime: Clinical and Social Implications. He has published articles in the New York Times, the New York Daily News, US News, the Houston Chronicle, and other publications, and has often been a guest on various radio and television networks, including CNBC and local NBC, Spectrum, and Fox affiliates in Orlando, Florida.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Introduction: Mad as a Hatter 1

Chapter 2 Madness, Mental Illness, and Insanity 21

Chapter 3 Deviance of the Personality 43

Chapter 4 Madness of the Monarch 63

Chapter 5 When God Speaks: Madness and Faith 85

Chapter 6 Madness on the Commune 107

Chapter 7 Madness among the I Percent 129

Chapter 8 When the Mind Goes: Dementia among the Ruling Class 151

Chapter 9 Madness as a Political Football 171

Chapter 10 Madness of the Masses 189

Chapter 11 Madness in the Future 215

Notes 229

Bibliography 271

Index 293

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