The nineteenth century was not only about large asylums, institutional psychiatry, and welfare provisions. It was also the century that reshaped the way law professionals approached the subject of insanity. Influential and controversial notions such as certificates of lunacy, the MacNaughtan Rules, and “monomania” profoundly changed the relationship between law and madness in many Western jurisdictions.
The following Table provides a list of some of the major cases –civil and criminal– decided in England between 1760 and 1885. Click on the Reference Link to access a transcription of the original trial and judgement. Original sources are also available on JustisOne (with subscription).
Secondary Readings on Civil and Criminal Lunacy Cases
Charles E. Rosenberg, The Trial of the Assassin Guiteau: Psychiatry and the Law in the Gilded Age (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1968)
Dan Degerman, “‘Am I mad?’: The Windham case and Victorian resistance to psychiatry,” History of Psychiatry (2019), 30: 4, 457–468
John Carson, “‘Every expression is watched’: Mind, medical expertise and display in the nineteenth-century English courtroom,” Social Studies of Science (2018), 48: 6, 891–918
Roger Smith, Trial by Medicine: Insanity and Responsibility in Victorian Trials(Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1981)
Joel Peter Eigen, Witnessing Insanity: Madness and Mad-Doctors in the English Court (New Haven, NJ: Yale University Press, 1995)
Joel Peter Eigen, Mad-Doctors in the Dock: Defending the Diagnosis, 1760–1913 (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2016)
Katherine D. Watson, Forensic Medicine in Western Society: A History (New York, NY: Routledge, 2011)