A Mad People’s History of Madness (Paperback)

By Dale Peterson (Editor)

University of Pittsburgh Press, 9780822953319, 384pp.

Publication Date: March 15, 1982

List Price: 34.95*
* Individual store prices may vary.


A man desperately tries to keep his pact with the Devil, a woman is imprisoned in an insane asylum by her husband because of religious differences, and, on the testimony of a mere stranger, “a London citizen” is sentenced to a private madhouse. This anthology of writings by mad and allegedly mad people is a comprehensive overview of the history of mental illness for the past five hundred years-from the viewpoint of the patients themselves.

Dale Peterson has compiled twenty-seven selections dating from 1436 through 1976. He prefaces each excerpt with biographical information about the writer. Peterson's running commentary explains the national differences in mental health care and the historical changes that have take place in symptoms and treatment. He traces the development of the private madhouse system in England and the state-run asylum system in the United States. Included is the first comprehensive bibliography of writings by the mentally ill.

About the Author

Dale Peterson is the author of several books, including Storyville, USA and Jane Goodall: The Woman Who Redefined Man, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.

Praise For A Mad People’s History of Madness

“A selection of twenty-six histories of madness written by mad people from 1436 to 1976. . . . a very interesting picture of the inner experience of being mad, of the living conditions of mental patients and of the techniques of treatment. . . . a lucid and stimulating book.”
—History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences

“Dr. Peterson has compiled an interesting and readable collection of memoirs on a topic that can still rouse debate, which will prove an especially useful text to students of medical history.”

 “Offering us the words of sufferers unencumbered by theoretical apparatus, Peterson's troubling book makes us listen as we may not have listened before.”
—San Francisco Chronicle