Hardback
October 14, 2003
9780801874284
English
248
9.00 Inches (US)
6.00 Inches (US)
1.05 Pounds (US)
1.05 Pounds (US)
$47.00 USD, £35.00 GBP
v2.1 Reference
Electronic book text
December 1, 2004
9780801881480
English
248
9.00 Inches (US)
6.00 Inches (US)
$47.00 USD, £35.00 GBP
v2.1 Reference

Unconscious Crime

Mental Absence and Criminal Responsibility in Victorian London

A sleepwalking, homicidal nursemaid; a "morally vacant" juvenile poisoner; a man driven to arson by a "lesion of the will"; an articulate and poised man on trial for assault who, while conducting his own defense, undergoes a profound personality change and becomes a wild and delusional "alter." These people are not characters from a mystery novelist's vivid imagination, but rather defendants who were tried at the Old Bailey, London's central criminal court, in the mid-nineteenth century. In Unconscious Crime, Joel Peter Eigen explores these and other cases in which defendants did not conform to any of the Victorian legal system's existing definitions of insanity yet displayed convincing evidence of mental aberration. Instead, they were—or claimed to be—"missing," "absent," or "unconscious": lucid, though unaware of their actions.

Based on extensive research in the Old Bailey Sessions Papers (verbatim courtroom narratives taken down in shorthand during the trial and sold on the street the following day), Eigen's book reveals a growing estrangement between law and medicine over the legal concept of the Person as a rational and purposeful actor with a clear understanding of consequences. The McNaughtan Rules of l843 had formalized the Victorian insanity plea, guiding the courts in cases of alleged delusion and derangement. But as Eigen makes clear in the cases he discovered, even though defense attorneys attempted to broaden the definition of insanity to include mental absence, the courts and physicians who testified as experts were wary of these novel challenges to the idea of human agency and responsibility. Combining the colorful intrigue of courtroom drama and the keen insights of social history, Unconscious Crime depicts Victorian England's legal and medical cultures confronting a new understanding of human behavior, and provocatively suggests these trials represent the earliest incarnation of double consciousness and multiple personality disorder.

About the Author

Joel Peter Eigen is the Charles A. Dana Professor of Sociology at Franklin and Marshall College and visiting scholar at Pembroke College, Cambridge. His previous book, Witnessing Insanity: Madness and Mad-Doctors in the English Court, won the 1997 Mannfred S. Guttmacher Award, cosponsored by the American Psychiatric Association and the American Academy of Law and Psychiatry.

Reviews

"Riveting . . . A fascinating, if grim, analysis of an overlooked aspect of Victorian medico-legal history."—Times Literary Supplement

"Eigen has interwoven . . . complex psychological, legal, and social issues in a fabric of compelling historical events, addressing timeless questions of the self, mind, memory, and what it means to be conscious or, simply, to be."—Harold J. Bursztajn, Journal of the American Medical Association

"This book shows how underneath the supposed hegemony of the restrictive M'Naghten Rules a long-term expansion of the universe of mental derangement was slowly taking place in the courts of Victorian England. It also carries forward the work Eigen did in his previous book, Witnessing Insanity: Madness and Mad Doctors in the English Court (1995), to debunk the fashionable notion of 'medical imperialism' and to show how the increasing use of medicine and psychiatry in criminal justice was being produced less by the ambitions of doctors and more by the actions of other 'players' in the legal process . . . It also reminds us of the relevance of criminal trials for understanding nineteenth century mentalities."—Martin J. Wiener, American Historical Review

"The stand alone chapters make it ideal for course reading. Eigen has accomplished the rare mix of combining academic rigour with a colourfully written, thumping good read."—Sharon E. Mathews, Medical History

"Eigen should definitely be praised for offering an overly ambitious but abridged medico-legal history that is both narratively engaging for a general readership and adhering rigidly to scholarly methods or academic canons of intellectual history."—Pete N. Economou, Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, reviewing a previous edition

"A beautifully crafted and tightly reasoned intellectual history. Joel Peter Eigen introduces readers to the concept of 'double consciousness' as it arose in the nineteenth century through several trials that serve as detailed examples of this phenomenon. The trials themselves are fascinating, and Eigen's approach ensures that his study is sophisticated, precise, and engaging. Eigen is an excellent storyteller who has the ability to move back and forth between the concrete and the abstract. This book is exquisitely done."—Richard Moran, Mount Holyoke College, author of Executioner's Current: Thomas Edison, George Westinghouse, and the Invention of the Electric Chair

9780801874284 : unconscious-crime-eigen
Hardback
248 Pages
$47.00 USD
9780801881480 : unconscious-crime-eigen
Electronic book text
248 Pages
$47.00 USD

Other Titles by Joel Peter Eigen

Mad-Doctors in the Dock

Joel Peter Eigen
Oct 2016 - Johns Hopkins University Press
$40.00 USD - Hardback
$40.00 USD - Electronic book text

Other Titles in History of medicine

Getting Under Our Skin

Lisa T. Sarasohn
Sep 2021 - Johns Hopkins University Press
$30.00 USD - Hardback
$30.00 USD - Electronic book text

DSM

Allan V. Horwitz
Aug 2021 - Johns Hopkins University Press
$35.00 USD - Hardback
$35.00 USD - Electronic book text

Bodies in Doubt, second edition

Elizabeth Reis
Jul 2021 - Johns Hopkins University Press
$30.00 USD - Paperback / softback
$30.00 USD - Electronic book text