By Mark Stevens
Broadmoor published takes the reader on a trip around Victorian England�s felony Lunatic Asylum. Recounting own tales from the place precise crime meets psychological sickness, the publication takes in gunshot at Queen Victoria and poison in Brighton, in addition to the artist Richard Dadd and lexicographer William Chester Minor. A clinic, now not a jail: stories of madness, homicide and extra.
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Extra info for Broadmoor Revealed: Victorian Crime and the Lunatic Asylum
Dadd seemed to enjoy the tour, and wrote various letters home detailing his wonderful experiences. He was fascinated both by the scenery he encountered and the people he met, and an internal record of these compositions appears to have remained locked within him during his years of treatment. Decades later he would bring it out to influence the works he completed in Bethlem and Broadmoor. Although the tour itself was meeting expectations, by the time they reached Egypt Dadd had begun to exhibit signs of mental illness.
In contrast, most of the women were housewives or labourers, with comparatively few women coming from more privileged backgrounds. The suggestion has been made that, since many women had attacked their own children, the middle class Victorian lady was not likely to be found at Broadmoor. Any murderous tendencies such a lady might have had would have been deflected by her distant relationship with her offspring, and thus thwarted by the presence of the nanny. The poorer nature of the female class is perhaps reflected in the fact that while around two-thirds of the men were married, fewer than half the women were.
As you might expect, a lot of restrictions for access remain on the archive. Particularly, patients’ medical records are closed for a considerable time. This meant that any publicity had to focus on the Victorian period, and so I began to put together brief biographies of those nineteenth century patients who are already part of public consciousness. Their stories are here: Edward Oxford, Richard Dadd, William Chester Minor and Christiana Edmunds. However, those are only four patients out of over two thousand admitted before 1901.
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