, Volume 27, Issue 1, pp 139–141 | Cite as

Confronting insanity at the Old Bailey

Joel Peter Eigen: Mad-doctors in the dock: defending the diagnosis, 1760–1913. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2016, 206pp, $40.00 HB
  • Ian Burney
Book Review

Since the publication of his path-breaking Witnessing Insanity (1995) and his follow-up Unconscious Crime (2003), Joel Peter Eigen has been widely recognized as the expert on the history of English forensic psychiatric expertise. Yet in the preface to this his third monograph he disarmingly declares that after decades meticulously tilling this very particular historical patch he still does not know ‘the answer’. He does, however, now know ‘the question’: where did psychiatric diagnoses presented in the courtroom come from?

It is this seemingly simple question that animates this engagingly written account of testimony on the mental state of nearly 1000 individuals tried at the Old Bailey Criminal Courts between 1760 and 1913. This impressive data set, and its historical range, is the result of an amalgam of past and present research—331 trials between 1760 and 1843 from book one, 199 trials between 1843 and 1876 from book two, and 464 between 1876 and 1913 from the present study. Eigen...

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for the History of Science, Technology and MedicineUniversity of ManchesterManchesterUK

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