Why Talk About Madness?

  • Catharine ColeborneEmail author
Part of the Mental Health in Historical Perspective book series (MHHP)


This title chapter asserts that we should talk more about madness in historical context. It positions definitions and ideas about madness in the twentieth century, a period when understandings of what it means to be ‘mad’ underwent a significant transformation. It outlines several research themes that have shaped decades of scholarship by the many historians interested in the stories of mental illness, institutional confinement, and in the changing ways in which people have thought about the meanings of madness over time. The chapter focuses on the political value of talking about ‘madness’ through the eyes of those who experienced confinement inside institutions, but in the context of anti-psychiatry, community care and mental health advocacy.


Mental illness Institutions Twentieth century Psychiatric consumers Survivor voices Autobiography 

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Humanities and Social ScienceUniversity of NewcastleCallaghanAustralia

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