Inconvenient People

Lunacy, Liberty and the Mad-Doctors in Victorian England

By Sarah Wise

Asylums, Social History


Published by Vintage

Shortlist 2014
Inconvenient People

This highly original book brilliantly exposes the phenomenon of false allegations of lunacy (and the dark motives behind them...) in the Victorian period.

Gaslight tales of rooftop escapes, men and women snatched in broad daylight, patients shut in coffins, a fanatical cult known as the Abode of Love…

The nineteenth century saw repeated panics about sane individuals being locked away in lunatic asylums. With the rise of the ‘mad-doctor’ profession, English liberty seemed to be threatened by a new generation of medical men willing to incarcerate difficult family members in return for the high fees paid by an unscrupulous spouse or friend.

Sarah Wise uncovers 12 shocking stories, untold for over a century, and reveals the darker side of the Victorian upper and middle classes – their sexuality, fears of inherited madness, financial greed and fraudulence – and chillingly evokes the black motives at the heart of the phenomenon of the ‘inconvenient person’.

Read our shortlist post about Inconvenient People, written by academic expert on madness and the body Jennifer Wallis, here.

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