SHORTLISTED FOR THE WELLCOME BOOK PRIZE
Gaslight tales of rooftop escapes, men and women snatched in broad daylight, patients shut in coffins, a fanatical cult known as the Abode of Love...
The nineteenth century saw repeated panics about sane individuals being locked away in lunatic asylums. With the rise of the `mad-doctor' profession, English liberty seemed to be threatened by a new generation of medical men willing to incarcerate difficult family members in return for the high fees paid by an unscrupulous spouse or friend.
Sarah Wise uncovers twelve shocking stories, untold for over a century and reveals the darker side of the Victorian upper and middle classes - their sexuality, fears of inherited madness, financial greed and fraudulence - and chillingly evoke the black motives at the heart of the phenomenon of the `inconvenient person'.
Sarah Wise has an MA in Victorian Studies from Birkbeck College. She teaches 19th-century social history and literature to both undergraduates and adult learners, and is visiting professor at the University of California's London Study Center, and a guest lecturer at City University. Her interests are London/urban history, working-class history, medical history, psychogeography, 19th-century literature and reportage. Her website is www.sarahwise.co.uk Her most recent book, Inconvenient People: Lunacy, Liberty and the Mad-Doctors in Victorian England (Bodley Head), was shortlisted for the Wellcome Book Prize 2014. Her 2004 debut, The Italian Boy: Murder and Grave Robbery in 1830s London (Jonathan Cape), was shortlisted for the 2005 Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction. Her follow-up The Blackest Streets: The Life and Death of a Victorian Slum was published in 2008 and was shortlisted for the Royal Society of Literature's Ondaatje Prize. Sarah was a major contributor to Iain Sinclair's compendium London, City of Disappearances (2006). She has contributed to the TLS, History Today, BBC History magazine, the Literary Review, the FT and the Daily Telegraph. She discussed bodysnatching for BBC2's History Cold Case series; provided background material for BBC1's Secret History of Our Streets; and spoke about Broadmoor Hospital on Channel 5's programme on that institution.She has been a guest on Radio 4's All in the Mind, Radio 3's Night Waves and the Guardian's Books Podcast about 19th-century mental health.