The Sunday Magazine

Barbara Taylor's "madness years"

Historian and academic Barbara Taylor's memoir, The Last Asylum, chronicles her two-decade descent into madness, and her slow crawl back to health.
Barbara Taylor, author of "The Last Asylum" (Penguin)

She calls them her "madness years" -- two harrowing decades spent careening through personal crisis, submitting to endless psychoanalysis, bouncing in and out of one of the last Victorian mental asylums, and landing in the middle of what is politely called "the community care revolution."

Historian and author Barbara Taylor lived it all. Her new memoir is a raw expose of that experience. Ms. Taylor says she became the person she is today "through" her madness, not by "recovering" from it. And she is now a passionate advocate for a return to the idea of the a safe place to get care.

An engraving of Colney Hatch Pauper Lunatic Asylum, later renamed Friern Hospital. At one time, it had over 2600 patients. (Friern Barnet Photo Archive)

Barbara Taylor is a professor at Queen Mary University of London. She is the author of Eve and the New Jerusalem: Socialism and Feminism in the 19th Century and Mary Wollstonecraft and the Feminist Imagination.

Her new book is called The Last Asylum, A Memoir of Madness in Our Times.


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