CBR 15 Bingo – Violence: On their path to the asylum, nearly all of the people profiled in this book committed violence to others, and many to themselves as well.
Broadmoor is a well-known psychiatric hospital that originally opened in 1863, but until the 1950s or so, the “criminally insane” people sent there were mostly there for confinement rather than effective treatment.
I’ve always enjoyed true crime, but having also recently become intrigued by attitudes toward mental illness throughout history, I was excited to have this book fall into my lap. It was, however, somewhat different than I was expecting.
In this book, the author covers the stories of all the people who were admitted in Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum, as it was known then, from its founding until about the 1950s. Some of these cases are famous ones (such as Queen Victoria’s various stalkers and attempted assassins), but most, some very bizarre indeed, are not known at all today. By drawing upon contemporary newspaper accounts and court documents, the author was able to lay out the progression of the case and how people at the time perceived it.
However, I did wish that the scope of the book was wider. The author tells the stories of the inmates of the asylum in a vignette style, but there’s no thread connecting their experiences to everyone else’s, or indeed to what was going on more broadly in society at the time. I thought some more background during or between the stories of the inmates would have added a lot to the book, especially for those who might not know as much about the historical context.
Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley. This is my honest and voluntary review.