The July issue of Medical History includes an essay review of Akihito Suzuki’s Madness at home: the psychiatrist, the patient, and the family in England, 1820–1860 (University of California Press, 2006).
Suzuki examines the forces that undermined, or as he puts it, destabilized, domestic psychiatry: the caring for lunatic family members at home. Standard accounts of the process by which families “lost the treatment franchise” have routinely focused on the rise of the asylum and the coming of the (mad) doctor. But by mining an unusual source—newspaper reports of commissions of lunacy from 1825 to 1861—Suzuki has put to marvellous effect some 196 accounts of the actors, the language, the depositions, as well as the public and professional reaction to the shifting meanings of lunacy in an era noted for qualitative change in both civil and criminal jurisprudence. In addressing how domestic care of the mad lost its legitimacy, he deftly engages a host of issues dear to the heart of historians of medicine.