'Am I mad?': the Windham case and Victorian resistance to psychiatry

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This article revisits the notorious trial of William Windham, a wealthy young man accused of lunacy. The trial in 1861-2 saw the country's foremost experts on psychological medicine very publicly debate the concepts, symptoms and diagnosis of insanity. I begin by surveying the trial and the testimonies of medical experts. Their disparate assessments of Windham evoked heated reactions in the press and Parliament; these reactions are the focus of the second section. I then proceed to examine criticism of psychiatry in the newspapers more generally in the 1860s, outlining the political resistance to psychiatry and the responses of some leading psychiatrists. In conclusion, I consider what this says about the politics of medicalization at the time.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)457-468
Number of pages12
JournalHistory of Psychiatry
Issue number4
Early online date1 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2019

Bibliographical note

The acceptance date for this record is provisional and based upon the month of publication for the article.


  • Anti-psychiatry
  • expert testimony
  • insanity
  • law
  • medicalization
  • newspapers
  • 19th century


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