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Inconvenient People: Lunacy, Liberty, and the Mad-Doctors in England Hardcover – May 28, 2013


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Counterpoint; Reprint edition (May 28, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1619021714
  • ISBN-13: 978-1619021716
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,752,445 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Praise for Inconvenient People

"This might seem morbid reading, but Wise's research is rigorous, her writing is lucid and witty, and this book is engaging, although disturbing. A must-read for those who work in the mental health industry, I think most people will find it both eye-opening and provocative."The Guardian

"Wise’s meticulously researched study adds a fresh perspective to current scholarship on insanity and offers a chilling reminder of 'the stubborn unchangeability of many aspects of the lunacy issue.'" —Publishers Weekly

Praise for the UK edition of Inconvenient People

"I enjoyed Inconvenient People...it is an illuminating look at an area of social history that inspired Wilkie Collins among others." —Sebastian Faulks, Telegraph, Christmas 2012 Books of the Year

"Wise is a terrific researcher and storyteller. Here she has woven a series of case studies into a fascinating history of insanity in the 19th century." —Kate Summerscale, Guardian, Books of the Year 2012

"I thrilled read to Sarah Wise's Inconvenient People, an enthralling study of those who fell foul of Victorian mad-doctors and greedy relatives." —Philip Hoare, Sunday Telegraph, Books of the Year 2012

Praise for The Italian Boy

“Wise lights up a very dark chapter of London’s history…She has a Dickensian sense of London’s back alleys and dim corridors, and her meticulous survey of London’s eastern slums, where the resurrection men plied their trade, abounds in detail…Her achievement allows us to grasp some of the terrible secrets those mysteries concealed.”—The Boston Globe

“Wise’s immaculately researched and artfully constructed narrative shows how a band of bodysnatchers went from taking dead bodies to making them…The Italian Boy carves out its own niche in the darkness and, like any good mystery, leaves more mysteries trailing in its wake.” —Washington Post

“A highly atmospheric account of corpse trafficking and killing in early 19th-century London...Wise’s stately, richly descriptive narrative… evokes tumultuous 1830s London...A fine historical and social reconstruction of a vile crime.” —Kirkus

About the Author

Sarah Wise studied at Birkbeck College at the University of London. Her most recent book, The Blackest Streets was shortlisted for the Ondaatje Prize (2009) and her first book, The Italian Boy: Murder and Grave Robbery in London was shortlisted for the 2005 Samuel Johnson Prize and won the Crime Writer’s Gold Dagger for nonfiction. She lives in London.

More About the Author

Extra stories and further exploration of the subjects of each of Sarah's three books can be read at www.sarahwise.co.uk

A short (16-minute) documentary film about The Italian Boy, filmed in June 2014, can be viewed here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Oe2boQ3nlg

And a talk about Inconvenient People, given this summer in London can be heard here http://media.nationalarchives.gov.uk/index.php/inconvenient-people/

She blogs on the Psychology Today website at http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/lunacy-and-mad-doctors/201305/gaslight-stories

You can hear her speaking about Inconvenient People at:
* The Guardian newspaper http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/audio/2012/nov/02/hospital-keneally-wise-magnanti-podcast

* Wilton's Music Hall, Whitechapel http://vimeo.com/93406035

* The BBC's Radio 4 'All in the Mind' programme http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p011h15t

* Little Atoms 'Podcast About Ideas' http://castroller.com/podcasts/LittleAtoms/3448884

Her talk at the Museum of London about The Italian Boy, bodysnatching and murder for dissection can be heard at www.sarahwise.co.uk/podcasts.html

And here's her lecture about the Blackest Streets - the Old Nichol slum & its fictionalised version, The Old Jago, in Arthur Morrison's A Child of the Jago http://www.bishopsgate.org.uk/audios.aspx?vid=9123

Sarah Wise grew up in West London and went to school in Wood Lane, White City. After graduation in English Literature, she worked on the launch team of UK Marie Claire for five years, and subsequently as a freelance journalist, working mostly for arts, architecture and design titles, including the Guardian arts desk and Space magazine.
A Master's degree in Victorian Studies from the University of London led to the writing of The Italian Boy: Murder and Grave Robbery in 1830s London (2004) and The Blackest Streets (2008). The former won the Crime Writers' Association Gold Dagger for Non-Fiction, and was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction. The latter was shortlisted for the Ondaatje Prize for evocation of a location/landscape.

Her third book, Inconvenient People, was published in paperback in the US in July 2014.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Sinohey TOP 1000 REVIEWER on October 3, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
This well researched book is about 12 cases; thread together to illustrate the effects of the "Lunacy Laws" in Victorian England, in the 19th century. Ms. Wise writes as a social historian, who uses the unfortunates incarcerated in the variety of public and private madhouses, to describe the contemporary English society's ethics. She cuts a wide swath from the slums to the upper echelon of the aristocracy, distinguished families and prominent professionals.
Ms. Wise clearly exposes the shenanigans and hypocrisy of the "alienists" (psychiatrists/psychologists) in cahoots with members of the judiciary who facilitated the confinement of many victims based solely on greed. Many examples of the so-called `lunatics' were simply eccentrics who did not toe the line within the culture, or held alternative religious beliefs, or resisted their families' wishes, or were an inconvenience or impediment to their relatives' acquisition of wealth or property, or were simply an inconvenient burden on the family.
Often the victim would be declared insane and imprisoned in the family's home, or in one of the myriad privately run madhouses, run by an alienist, for a fee. In most cases, the `lunatic' would forfeit his/her possessions to the relatives (who are "caring" for them) or to the adjudicating Lunacy Board to pay for their upkeep. The majority of the funds were diverted to the trustees' personal coffers in most cases.
The diagnosis, incarceration and overall brutal treatment of the insane often bordered on the criminal.

Public asylums and lunatic wards in workhouses meted out the worst abuse of the inmates, including beatings, heavy metal shackles, bed restraints, dunking in ice-cold water baths etc.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By June Lapidow on November 16, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Fascinating stories, mostly well explained. At times, the author's style is influenced heavily by Victorian fiction, which makes the work seem somewhat less than reliably unbiased and factual. Nonetheless, I plan to take a look at Ms. Wise's other works, since she is obviously a terrific researcher with a great grasp of her subject.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Absolutely brilliant. This work does more than give a comprehensive, very human look at the law and lunacy in the UK from the late 1700s and through the 1800s, it also sweeps away a lot f popular misconceptions.

This book alternates between an outline of various lunacy laws with explanations that put those laws in context, and carefully detailed case histories that result from those laws or cause a change of the laws.

We get to see past the sensationalist accounts of the press and public hysteria to what was actually happening. I found it fascinating to learn the truth behind the myths, so to speak.

Well worth reading if you have any interest in the subject at all, with a useful collection of sources listed for further study.

This book reminds me of Koven's "Slumming: Sexual and Social Politics in Victorian London" in that it takes on an area of Victorian history, debunks an accepted wisdom that didn't add up to me, and replaces it with something that makes more sense.
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By Kim M. Boutros on July 19, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Great reading book
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By OldTiGuy on October 7, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The book is extremely well researched but some of the case histories go into a length far more than necessary to get the point of the book across. The writing often seems in the style of mid-nineteenth century England making for some heavy reading. It seems that nearly half of the "book" is references, citations, and more case histories. It is interesting to hear about how mental illness was perceived at the time and the illicit scams undertaken by some unscrupulous "physicians" of the time who also operated "asylums" for a profit. However, overall, I found the book something of a drag.
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