Mad People's History

Critical Disability Studies
Faculty of Graduate Studies
York University
Winter 2005

Thursdays, 11:30 – 2:30
Beginning on January 6, 2005

This course will examine how “madness” has been expressed and interpreted in modern history. Where do diverse concepts of “madness” come from? How have these ideas changed over time? How have “mad people” viewed their own experiences? This course will be in the tradition of social history from “below”. It will survey the social, medical, political, economic, cultural and religious factors that have influenced interpretations of what it means to be “mad.” The primary focus of study will be on North America and Britain, though sources from other parts of the world will also be included.

Course Objectives:

1. Critically analyze the history of “madness” from the perspectives and experiences of people considered mad, insane or mentally ill.
2. Provide students with a broad understanding of the diverse viewpoints that have always existed about what it means to be considered “mad” and how this challenges stereotypes about the people we are studying.
3. Address the impact of gender, race, class, ability, and sexual orientation throughout the course in regard to how each of these factors have historically affected the treatment and experiences of “mad people”.
4. Connect past historical experiences with contemporary developments to explore changes and continuity in various aspects of the history of “mad people”.
5. Allow students to hear directly from people who have lived some of this recent history, through in-class presentations and seminars.
6. Provide students with the analytical tools to help them understand the historical context of what they are living today as psychiatric consumer/survivors, advocates, family members and friends of people with mental health issues.


As this course will include both graduate and undergraduate students, two different grading schemes and course requirements are included for each level. Graduate students will have their work marked at a higher level than undergraduate students and both groups of students will have different course requirements.

Undergraduate evaluation:

1) 5 page, double spaced book review, chosen in consultation with the instructor – 10%. Due on February 10.

2) 15-20 page essay, double-spaced, to consist of a critical historical interpretation on a topic in the history of madness to be agreed upon with the instructor – 30%. Due March 31.

3) Take Home Exam – (short answer questions and essay questions) – 30%. Due on April 7, one week after the questions are handed out in the final seminar class.

4) Overall Participation and Attendance – 30%.

Graduate evaluation:

1) 10 page double-spaced Comparative Book Review (2 books) or a 10 page double-spaced Annotated Bibliography on a theme in the history of madness to be decided upon in consultation with the instructor – 20%. Due on February 10.

2) 25-30 page essay, double-spaced, to consist of a critical historical interpretation on a topic in the history of madness to be decided upon in consultation with the instructor – 40%. Due March 31.

3) Overall Participation and Attendance – 40%

Instructor: Geoffrey Reaume, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Critical Disability Studies, Faculty of Graduate Studies, York University
Office: Health, Nursing and Environmental Studies Building, Room 428A
Phone 416-736-2100, extension 22058
Fax: 416-736-5227

Office Hours: Mondays: 1-4 PM
Thursdays: 9-11:30 AM and 2:30-5 PM
Or by appointment.

Note: Plagiarism, when proven, will result in a mark of “O” for that particular assignment. All students should access the full York policy on academic integrity and also complete the tutorial about how to respect these procedures at: integrity/

Class Outline and Reading List

Class 1 (January 6) Introduction: Why History from the Perspectives of Mad People?

Required Readings:

Reading 1.
Don Weitz. Review of A Mad People’s History of Madness, Dale Peterson, ed. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1982. In Phoenix Rising: The Voice of the Psychiatrized 3:3 (Winter 1983): 31-32.

Reading 2.
Reaume, Geoffrey, “Portraits of People with Mental Disorders in English Canadian History, Canadian Bulletin of Medical History, 17:1&2 (2000): 93-125.

Reading 3.
Peter Beresford, "What Have Madness and Psychiatric System Survivors Got to Do with Disability and Disability Studies? Disability & Society 15:1 (January, 2000): 167-172

(41 pages)

Class 2 (January 13) Folly and Fools: Madness up to the 18th Century

Required Readings:

Reading 4.
Roy Porter, Madness: A Brief History. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002: 62-88.

Reading 5.
Margery Kempe, "The Book of Margery Kempe", in Dale Peterson, ed. A Mad People's History of Madness. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1982: 3-18.

Reading 6.
Hannah Allen, "A Narrative of God's Gracious Dealings With That Choice Christian Mrs. Hannah Allen, 1683," in Voices of Madness: Four Pamphlets, 1683-1796. Ed. Allan Ingram. Gloucestershire: Sutton Publishing, 1997: 1-21.

Reading 7.
William Belcher, "Address to Humanity: Containing, a Letter to Dr. Thomas Monro: A Receipt to Make a Lunatic, and Seize his Estate; and a Sketch of a True Smiling Hyena, 1796" in Voices of Madness: Four Pamphlets, 1683-1796. Ed. Allan Ingram. Gloucestershire: Sutton Publishing, 1997: 129-135.

Reading 8.
Julia Keay, Alexander the Corrector: The Tormented Genius Who Unwrote the Bible. London: Harper Collins, 2004: 182-201.

(92 pages)

Class 3 (January 20) The Rise of Public Insane Asylums and First-Person Accounts During the 19th Century

Required Readings:

Reading 9.
Anonymous. "Illustrations of Insanity Furnished by the Letters and Writings of the Insane," American Journal of Insanity 4 (1848): 290-303.

Reading 10.
Anonymous. "Five Months in the New York State Lunatic Asylum", 1849, in Dale Peterson, ed. A Mad People's History of Madness. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1982: 108-122.

Reading 11.
Peter Bartlett, “Structures of Confinement in 19th-Century Asylums: A Comparative Study Using England and Ontario”, International Journal of Law and Psychiatry 23:1 (January, February, 2000): 1-13.

(43 pages in reader)

Optional Reading outside of reader:

Isaac Hunt, Astounding Disclosures: The Years in a Madhouse by A Victim. Written By Himself. 1851.

Search web site under “Documents” - Disability History Museum at:

Class 4 (January 27) Early to Mid 20th Century Experiences of Mad People

Guest Speaker: Don Weitz, long-time activist in the psychiatric survivor community in Toronto, will talk about his confinement in Boston’s McLean Hospital during the early 1950s.

Required Readings:

Reading 12.
Mary MacLane (1901) – “I Have in Me a Quite Unusual Intensity of Life” in The Inner World of Mental Illness: A Series of First-Person Accounts of What It Was Like. Ed. Bert Kaplan.New York: Harper and Row, 1964: 263-280.

Reading 13.
Jane Hillyer (1926) “Reluctantly Told” in The Inner World of Mental Illness: A Series of First-Person Accounts of What It Was Like. Ed. Bert Kaplan. New York: Harper and Row, 1964: 158-163.

Reading 14.
Anonymous. “The Asylum Environment: By An Ex-Patient.” British Journal of Medical Psychology 10 (I931): 344-64.

Reading 15.
“ Anonymous “An Electric Shock Patient Tells His Story”, Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 43 (1948): 201-210.

Reading 16.
Robert Menzies, “‘I Do Not Care for a Lunatic’s Role’: Modes of Regulation and Resistance Inside the Colquitz Mental Home, British Columbia, 1919-33”, Canadian Bulletin of Medical History 16:2 (1999): 181-213.

(78 pages in reader)

Optional Reading outside of Reader:

Don Weitz, “Insulin Shock – A Survivor Account of Psychiatric Torture” – on web site under “People” at

Class 5 (February 3) Gender, Sexual Orientation and First-Person Accounts of Madness

Reading 17.
Elizabeth Packard, Sophie Olsen and Tirzah Shedd in Women of the Asylum: Voices from Behind the Walls, 1840-1945. Eds., Jeffrey L. Geller and Maxine Harris. New York: Anchor Books, 1994: 58-85.

Reading 18.
Lykke de la Cour, "'She thinks this is the Queen's castle': Women Patients' Perceptions of an Ontario Psychiatric Hospital," Health & Place 3:2 (June, 1997): 131-141.

Reading 19.
Cristina Rivera-Garza, “‘She neither Respected nor Obeyed Anyone’: Inmates and Psychiatrists Debate Gender and Class at the General Insane Asylum La Castaneda, Mexico, 1910-1930, Hispanic American Historical Review 81:3-4 (August & November 2001): 653-688.

Reading 20.
Joanna Bourke, “Effeminacy, Ethnicity and the End of Trauma: The Sufferings of ‘Shell shocked’ Men in Great Britain and Ireland, 1914-39”, Journal of Contemporary History 35:1 (2000): 57-69.

Reading 21.
Bonnie Burstow, "A History of Psychiatric Homophobia," Phoenix Rising: The Voice of the Psychiatrized 8:3&4 (July, 1990): S38-S39.

Reading 22.
James V. Sciana, “Mad Love” Phoenix Rising: The Voice of the Psychiatrized 8:3&4 (July, 1990): S2-S4.

(91 pages)

Class 6 (February 10) The Role of Race, Colonialism and Class in Defining Madness

Reading 23.
Suman Fernando, "Imperialism, Racism and Psychiatry", in The Construction of Power and Authority in Psychiatry , eds. Phil Barker and Chris Stevenson. Oxford: Butterworth Heinemann, 2000: 81-93.

Reading 24.
Robert Menzies, "Race, Reason, and Regulation: British Columbia's Mass Exile of Chinese 'Lunatics' aboard the Empress of Russia, 9 February 1935", in Regulating Lives: Historical Essays on the State, Society, The Individual, and the Law. Eds., J.McLaren, R. Menzies, D. Chunn. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2002: 196-230.

Reading 25.
Jonathan Sadowsky, “The Confinement of Isaac O.: A Case of ‘Acute Mania’ in Colonial Nigeria,” in History of Psychiatry 7:1 (March, 1996): 91-112.

Reading 26.
" Justice Delayed: Exonerated Inmate Freed After 69 Years in Asylum". The Windsor Star, February 1, 1996 (1 page).

(70 pages)

Class 7 (February 24) Eugenics and the Persecution of People Labeled "Mentally Defective" in Europe and North America, 1880-1972

Video: “Selling Murder: The Killing Films of the Third Reich” (Britain, 1991), approximately 60 minutes.

Reading 27.
Henry Friedlander, “The Exclusion and Murder of the Disabled”, in Social Outsiders in Nazi Germany, eds., R. Gellately and N. Stoltzfus. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001: 145-164.

Reading 28.
Marle Woodson, AKA ‘Inmate, Ward 8’, Behind the Door of Delusion. Originally published in 1932, MacMillan Co., reprinted: Niwot, Colorado: University Press of Colorado, 1994:125-135.

Reading 29.
Richard Cairney, "'Democracy was never intended for degenerates': Alberta's Flirtation with Eugenics Comes back to Haunt it," Canadian Medical Association Journal 155:6 (September 15, 1996): 789-792.

(46 pages in reader)

Optional Reading on Reserve in Library:
Michael Burleigh, Death and Deliverance: ‘Euthanasia’ in Germany, 1900-1945. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994: 183-219.

Class 8: (March 3) Art and Madness

Reading 30.
Sander L. Gilman, Seeing the Insane. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press: 214-221.

Reading 31.
Antonin Artaud. “Van Gogh The Man Suicided By Society.” In Artaud Anthology, ed. Jack Hirschman. San Francisco: City Light Books, 1965: 135-163.

Reading 32.
Annette Becker, “The Avant-garde, Madness and the Great War”, Journal of Contemporary History 35:1 (2000): 71-84.

Reading 33.
Bettina Brand-Claussen, “The Collection of Works in the Psychiatric Clinic, Heidelberg – from the Beginnings until 1945” in Beyond Reason: Art and Psychosis: Work from the Prinzhorn Collection. London: Hayward Gallery, 1996: 7-23.

Reading 34.[Images of artistic creations].
Various authors and artists. Beyond Reason: Art and Psychosis: Work from the Prinzhorn Collection. London: Hayward Gallery, 1996: 64-65, 74, 84-92, 96-99, 125-130, 163, 187.

(72 pages)

Class 9 (March 10) Psychiatric Patients' Labour During the 19th and 20th Centuries

Required Readings:

Reading 35.
Geoffrey Reaume. “No Profits, Just a Pittance: Work, Compensation and People Defined as Mentally Disabled in Ontario, 1964-1990.” In Steven Noll and James W. Trent Jr., eds. Mental Retardation in America: A Historical Reader. New York: New York University Press 2004: 466-493.

Reading 36.
Advocacy Resource Centre for the Handicapped, "Will the Charter Change Sheltered Workshops?" Phoenix Rising: Voice of the Psychiatrized 5:2&3 (August, 1985): 31A-32A.

Reading 37.
Rita Bradden, "Working Abilities: My Story" in Kiss Me You Mad Fool: A Collection of Writing from Parkdale Activity and Recreation Centre (Toronto: Positive Print, 1991): 31-35.

(34 pages in reader)

Optional Reading on reserve:
Geoffrey Reaume, Remembrance of Patients Past: Patient Life at the Toronto Hospital for the Insane, 1870-1940. Toronto: Oxford University Press Canada, 2000: 133-180.

Class 10 (March 17) Activism by Psychiatric Inmates, Patients, Consumers and Survivors, 1845-2004

Guest Speakers: Jennifer Chambers and Randy Pritchard, long-time activists in the psychiatric survivor community in Toronto, will speak about their involvement with Queen Street Patients Council; the Empowerment Council, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health; Ontario Psychiatric Survivors Alliance; and Mental Health Legal Advocacy Coalition.

Reading 38.
Nicholas Hervey, “Advocacy or Folly: The Alleged Lunatics’ Friends Society, 1845-63,” Medical History 30:3 (July, 1986): 245-275.

Reading 39.
Clifford Beers, A Mind That Found Itself: An Autobiography. New York: Doubleday, 1908, 1953: 62-77, 248-252.

Reading 40.
Mel Starkman, “The Movement” Phoenix Rising: The Voice of the Psychiatrized. 2:3 (December, 1981): A2-A15.

Reading 41.
Geoffrey Reaume, “Lunatic to Patient to Person: Nomenclature in Psychiatric History and the Influence of Patients’ Activism in North America”. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry . 25:4 (July-August, 2002): 405-426.

(87 pages)

Optional Readings Outside of the Reader (distributed by email):
Jennifer Chambers, “Empowerment: Resisting Social Control” (2001).

Jennifer Chambers, “Empowerment in Psychiatric Facilities” Mental Health and Patients’ Rights in Ontario: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow – 20thAnniversary Special Report, May 2003, Psychiatric Patient Advocate Office. Toronto: Queen’s Printer, 2003: 102-104.

Jennifer Chambers, Randy Pritchard, “Injustice in the Forensic Mental Health System”, presentation to Consultations on Mental Health, Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, Ottawa, February 16, 2005.

“The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health Bill of Client Rights,” December 9, 2004.

Class 11 (March 24) Butterfly Wards and Soul Survivors: First Person Accounts of “Madness” in Canada since the 1970s

Guest Speaker: Jane Lowry, writer and mother, will speak about her experiences with post-partum psychosis as well as her involvement in supporting women who have had similar experiences.

Reading 42.
Margaret Gibson, The Butterfly Ward. Toronto: Harper Collins, 1976, 1994: 148-167.

Reading 43.
" The Problems of Running a Boarding House" [no author cited], The Cuckoo's Nest 1:2 (December, 1979): 6-8.

Reading 44 [Drawing].
Bob Errett, "Welcome To Our World", The Cuckoo's Nest II 1:2 (January-February, 1983): 14.

Reading 45.
Vern Harper, "Them Crazy Indians" in Bonnie Burstow & Don Weitz, eds. Shrink Resistant: The Struggle Against Psychiatry in Canada. Vancouver: New Star Books, 1988: 121-125.

Reading 46.
Irit Shimrat, Bonnie Burstow, Don Weitz and Lanny Beckman in Irit Shimrat, Call Me Crazy: Stories from the Mad Movement. Vancouver: Press Gang Publishers, 1997: 37-57.

Reading 47.
Pat Capponi, Beyond the Crazy House: Changing the Future of Madness. Toronto: Penguin Books, 2003: 103-114.

(62 pages)

Optional Reading outside of reader (distributed in class):
Jane Lowry, “On Postpartum Mental Illness”, in Beyond Crazy: Journeys Through Mental Illness. Toronto: McLelland and Stewart, 2002: 91-96.

Class 12 (March 31) Meds, the Media, Cross Disability Links and the History of Madness into the 21st Century

Guest Speaker: Caroline Fei-Yeng Kwok, writer and teacher, will speak about her experiences in the mental health system and perspectives on psychiatric medication.

Reading 48.
Tracy Odell, "Disability and Relationships." Canadian Woman Studies 13:4 (Summer, 1993): 56-58.

Reading 49.
Lynda Jacko, My Life Has Been A Gift from God. Guelph: Sharing to Learn, 1997: 4-12.

Reading 50.
Ravi Malhotra "Tracy Latimer, Disability Rights and the Left" Canadian Dimension (May-June, 2001): 23-25.

Reading 51.
Scott Simmie, Out of Mind: An Investigation in Mental Health. Toronto: Atkinson Charitable Foundation, 1998: 49-58.

Reading 52.
Hy Bloom, “Axe Murderers ‘R Us?” Stitches, November 2002: 26-27.

Reading 53.
Freddy Bosco. "Down and Out on the Street", Psychiatric Services 47:8 (August, 1996): 806.

Reading 54.
Robert Whitaker, Mad in America: Bad Science, Bad Medicine, and the Enduring Mistreatment of the Mentally Ill. Cambridge Ma: Perseus Publishing, 2001: 161-193.

(61 pages)

Optional Reading outside of reader (distributed by email):
Caroline Fei-Yeng Kwok, “A Fragile China Doll.” Psychiatric Services 55 (February 2004): 121-122.

Class 13 – (April 7) Field Trip – Empowerment Council Tour (in-doors) of Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, led by psychiatric survivor Outreach Worker, Lucy Costa, followed by Psychiatric Patients’ Labour History Tour (outside) of the 19th century boundary walls built by patients at the same site, CAMH, 1001 Queen Street West.

(777 pages of required readings)