Madness: A Brief History
- By: Sabina Dosani
As thousands of medical students past and present will testify, Roy Porter was an exceptional teacher and medical historian. His untimely death at 55 continues to haunt those of us lucky enough to have enjoyed meeting him.
Fortunately, he was also a prolific writer who wrote or edited more than 100 books. His last book was a history of madness from prehistory to today. Madness: A Brief History opens with the ancient Greeks and their attitudes towards mad people. Greek gods control men and the Furies, three terrible winged goddesses, punish them. Heroes are driven mad with grief or guilt, but their agony is often a path to wisdom, much like Shakespeare's Lear. Myths, epics, dramas, and transgressions make an exciting and fast paced first chapter.
Porter's book is hugely comprehensive. Witness the rise, triumph, and fall of asylums before turning to medicine's disparate models of mania and melancholia. Madness: