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My own private England – the madness of James Tilly Matthews and of his times

My own private England – the madness of James Tilly Matthews and of his times

Abstract

Mike Jay. The Air Loom Gang: The Strange and True Story of James Tilly Matthews. His Visionary Madness and his Confinement in Bedlam. London: Bantam Books, 2003. Pp. 347. ISBN 0-553-81485. 7.99. Greg Hollingshead. Bedlam. Toronto: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd, 2004. Pp. 479. ISBN 0-00-200557-3. $34.95. Psychiatrists and historians used to quarrel bitterly over the territory of the history of psychiatry: which profession is the legitimate storyteller of psychiatry's past? Although a handful of die-hard belligerents from both sides continue the war, the futility of such a territorial dispute is becoming increasingly obvious. If we look around, the history of psychiatry in a broad sense is studied widely, far beyond the confines of the disciplines of history and psychiatry. Stories about mental illness and psychiatry in the past are now told by people with various backgrounds, and are listened to by a wider audience. Novels and films depicting madness in the past have flooded the contemporary cultural scene. Some of them are mega-hits: a novel depicting shell-shocked soldiers and their doctor won a Booker Prize in 1995; a film featuring a mad pianist won multiple Oscars in 1996; a similar feat was repeated in 2001 by another film about
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