Madness: A Brief History
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Madness: A Brief History

3.43 of 5 stars 3.43  ·  rating details  ·  291 ratings  ·  40 reviews
Looking back on his confinement to Bethlem, Restoration playwright Nathaniel Lee declared: "They called me mad, and I called them mad, and damn them, they outvoted me." As Roy Porter shows in Madness: A Brief History, thinking about who qualifies as insane, what causes mental illness, and how such illness should be treated has varied wildly throughout recorded history, som...more
Paperback, 258 pages
Published May 8th 2003 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 2002)
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just reread this and i have to jack down its rating from five to two stars! i read it the first time around when writing my dissertation, so i guess the always-last-minute three-year-long crunch dulled my senses and my intellect.

this is a rarefied and intellectual-sounding (oh, i am being ungenerous; it is, truth be told, intellectual enough, even erudite) history of mental illness, in the first part, and psychiatry, in the latter. the first part, an intellectual history of the evolving idea of...more
لم احبذ ان اكون صاحبة اول قراءة عربية للكتاب ، كاتب ممتع مهم وخفيف
الترجمة سيئة بعض الشيء ، لكن يتطرق لمواضيع اثارت اهتمامي ، كتاريخ الطب العقلي والعصبي حتى بحوث فرويد .
وماقبل ذلك كتاريخ المصحة فقد كانت مكان لتجمع الأواح الشريرة باعتقادهم وللتقييد بالأغلال والتعذيب حتى وصلت إلى ماهي عليه اللآن ومامرت به من ظروف ، وطرق العلاج المتخذه كالعلاج الاخلاقي والجراحي وبالعقاقير ،
قرائتي له كانت سريعة في أوقات الإنتظار ، التعريفات عن ماهية الجنون والمجنون به تستحق التأمل
Lisa M.
This book would be better titled “Madness: A Brief History of Madness in Western Society.” In the introduction, Porter claims that he will only address views on madness in Western society. In a 218 page book, it was difficult to summarize western madness— let alone including Eastern traditions. Porter handled this without tact, however. I would have liked it if he had written an accompanying, similar book about the Eastern concepts of madness. I know a lot about insanity— I have done a lot of pe...more
I was intrigued by this presentation of history's perceptions and explanations of, treatments for, and reactions toward madness and the mad. I especially enjoyed the section on the humors and learning how the poor, ill, and distressed were often treated as mad people. But then there are varying degrees of madness and the word's definition has always been in a state of flux. Something else that fascinated me was learning how people have tried for centuries to pin down connections between the mind...more
Albeit biased towards the scientific and positivistic argument, this is a very good introductory book to the history of madness and psychiatry. Very useful case studies and bibliography.
فاطمة الابراهيم

صحيح أن الكتاب يتحدث بموجز عن تاريخ الجنون إلا أنه لم يتطرق بالكتابة عن أهم الحقائق التأريخية لهذا المرض ، كما أن هنالك الكثير من المصطلحات المرضية والشخصيات التي أتى بالحديث عنها ولم يكلف الكاتب أو حتى المترجم عناء وضع هوامش توضيحية .

ورغم أن الترجمة جيدة جداً إلا أنها ليس من النوع الذي يدفع القارئ لإستئناف القراءة ، فاللغة متكلفة بعض الشيء ، والحقائق متداخلة مما شتت تفكيري في كثير من الأحيان ، بمعنى آخر أفتقدت للتنظيم ولا أدري العتب على الكاتب أم المترجم ، كان من الأجدر الإعتماد على التسلسل الز...more
I liked it. I really did. It is brief, concise, not too academic, the language is simple and easy going, while at the same time he goes over all the important names, developments, and milestones of the history of psychiatry. It helped me ground certain concept and I learned a lot of important shifts and turns in the history of psychiatry.

I also liked Porter's approach, he doesn't sound to be trying to convince you with the validity of psychiatry, and he doesn't sound very convinced with psychiat...more
I initially disregarded the negative reviews on this book as I'm relatively naive to the classical history of psychology and psychiatry. However, less than fifty pages into Madness I found myself annoyed at the author's blatant progressivist bias and Western-centric attitude. In Porter's preamble, it is stated that no Eastern thought will be covered;to blatantly exclude half of the world's history in psychology and psychiatry is mere ignorance and laze. The history of mental illness is chronicle...more
لا احب استهلال تقييمي عن الكتب بمساوئها ولكن هذا الكتاب لم يكن متوافقًا مع توقعاتي منه، طريقة السرد لتاريخ الجنون والمصحات العقلية ونشأة الطب العقلي والنفسي لم تكن منظمة بشكل يسهل على القارئ استيعابها وفهمها سريعًا .. كان الكتاب عبارة عن مئات الاسطر من السرد والتي يتخللها احيانًا بعض الصور . وبطريقة مملة جدًا من وجهة نظري . ربما كان يجدر بالكاتب التنويع باسلوب سرده للاحداث واستخدام النقاط والاعداد لتسهيل شرح وتذكر المعلومة لربطها مع معلومات الفصول المتأخرة من الكتاب ..

واخيرًا .. لابأس بما طرح ب...more
مما  قرأت
يعرض الكاتب في كتاب تاريخ الجنون
ما الذي يعنيه الجنون في الثقافة الغربية
وكيف عالجت هذا الجنون وطرق علاجه
ويستعرض الكاتب بورتر تاريخ الجنون البشري منذ البدء حتى الآن
ويستشهد ببعض الأمثلة الموجودة في كتب الطب الفرعونى
وكتب الطب في بلاد ما بين النهرين
وكذلك الجنون عند الأغريقيين
ولم يتوقف الكاتب عند هذه المواضيع فقط بل تطرق
الى ما يشعر به المرضى العقليين وماذا الذى كانوا يفكرون به
وكيف كان احساسهم تجاه الأدويه التى يأخدونها رغما عنهم
لتحميل الكتاب من هذا الرابط :
Michael Walkden
Erudite without being pretentious. I admire Porter for his attempts to make comprehensible a field of study which has often been dominated by scholars shouting very loudly but very incoherently. That said, I did detect a progressivist bias, as well as a hostility to some of Foucault's ideas. He's entitled to his opinions, of course, and there are doubtless many in the field who share them, but in an overview like this I felt that these elements could and should have been played down. Still, a ve...more
Fraser A.
Like the title says, this is a condensed look at how humanity has defined, explained and treated insanity. In some eras it's a sin (rejecting reason is to reject God) or demonic possession, in others it's an imbalance in our bodily humors or infection of the brain by disease and the treatment has ranged from confinement to lobotomy to drugs. Interesting, though obviously not in-depth (but I don't know I'd even want an in-depth look)
It was a little boring really, the writing kind of killed a very interesting topic. I will say though that the author had obviously done their homework, he is extremely knowledgeable on the subject and presented it in a clear manner. I feel like it could have easily been confusing at parts but it was not.

For people who are very interested in the topic it's a good choice, I just hope you can get through it!

Sean Cohmer
Exactly what it claims to be and not much more. The book is small and thin (218 half-sized pages), yet covers broadly madness and its history. At times Porter is overly succinct, but I get why. He could have easily done a history that accounted for each of his chapters in a book of its own... but he didn't. He gave us a short, pleasantly readable, history of madness that gives direction to read further.
This book is terribly short. However, it does produce its fair amount of information accompanied by Porter's intelligent, but dry writing.

I read this between classes and bus rides in about two days. A very quick read, but I wouldn't reccomend it, unless you can follow Porter's style. The size was a bit of a shock, it almost looks, on the outside, like a children's book–pictures included.
Hala A. Abbas
الكلمة اللي ألحت عليا طول مانا بقرأ الكتاب: أي كلام!
عرض سطحي، تكلف في العرض والربط، تركيز مستفز على الغرب دون ذكر أو إشارة إنه الكتاب حيتكلم عن تاريخ الجنون في الغرب، يعني بيفترض إنه الغرب هو الاساس أو ربما هو العالم كله! تركيز وتكرار نقاط مش مستاهلة التركيز وإغفال الشرح لنقاط مهمة ذكرت عرضا، ترجمة تعبانة (وإن كانت معقولة مقارنة ببعض الترجمات اللي بتنشر)
An interesting look at mental illness through the lens of time; how we've defined and explained bizarre behavior from the earliest recordings through the present. Oddly, the more things change, the more they stay the same and despite all our attempts to control or cure all forms of "insanity", it appears we're no better off today than we ever were. Sadly.
This is good if you want to be able to converse on psychology and don't have the time or inclination to read a thicker book or several books. It covers all the important points and I found it very readable, but it's very short, and the author had to rush through everything. People who read many psychology books (like me) probably won't learn anything new.
I was a bit disappointed with this book, although perhaps if a title says "A brief history" one is not entitled to complain of a book's brevity! I liked the way Porter shows the way the 'ownership' of madness has changed and his use of the perspectives of 'the mad' themselves although this was a little patchy.
The best I can say for this book is that it had nice illustrations. As for the rest: difficult to read, rambled on and highlighted (ergo, agreed with in the very beginning) a Mr. Szasz's paradigm that Psychiatry was a pseudoscience because "there is no such thing as mental illness." Quite a turnoff.
Wendy Wendtvanguilder
It was a tough read, written in old english with latin and a lot of words that lead you to somewhere else. It was used as a text book for a class on mind problems and I was the Campus colleague so I tried to follow along. I must have missed something in the context.
For an overview of how western cultures have explained and treated insanity from its first mention in recorded history, this little volume does its job. It's a bit dry and clinical at points, but overall a quick and interesting read for anyone who likes to read psychology.
B. Rule
I liked this, but it was really too brief to give more than a tantalizing hint of the welter of opinions and arguments surrounding the history of mental illness. There are flashes of Porter's analytical brilliance, but it's nowhere close to his best work.
Stephanie Jewett
As the title says, this is brief, and basically just skims the surface of the topic. That said, I wasn't looking for anything really in-depth, and I think it provides a good jumping off point for someone who wants to learn more about the subject.
It is what it is. Very brief history of how society has defined and treated insanity. Unfortunately, it is so brief and really just brushes over in the most general description, what could be really interesting stories about controversies, etc.
Provides an enlightening overview of madness in human history, and how our perception and response to 'madness' has changed. I'm not sure we're any better off than we were in the Dark Ages, though. Comprehensive list of sources for further reading.
I sampled bits and pieces of this one... smorgasborg. I found the artwork selected for illustrations curious, this being the first time I'd paid attention to how people with psychological disorders have been depicted in art.
A good overview of how attitudes towards madness/insanity/mental illness have evolved, but suffers from being too brief. Also only focuses on the Western world.
D.E. Meredith
Lots of great bits an dpieces in here and very erudite ut it was all arranged in quite challenging way. I preferred Bedlam. Useful to dip into tho.
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Roy's books cover several fields: the history of geology, London, 18th-Century British ideas and society, medicine, madness, quackery, patients and practitioners, literature and art, on which subjects (and others) he published over 200 books are articles.

List of works can be found @ wikipedia ( )
More about Roy Porter...
Blood and Guts: A Short History of Medicine The Greatest Benefit to Mankind: A Medical History of Humanity (The Norton History of Science) English Society in the Eighteenth Century London: A Social History Flesh in the Age of Reason: The Modern Foundations of Body and Soul

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“Not least, the asylum idea reflected the long-term cultural shift from religion to scientific secularism. In traditional Christendom, it was the distinction between believers and heretics, saints and sinners, which had been crucial—that between the sane and the crazy had counted for little. This changed, and the great divide, since the ‘age of reason’, became that between the rational and the rest, demarcated and enforced at bottom by the asylum walls. The keys of St Peter had been replaced by the keys of psychiatry.” 1 likes
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