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Broadmoor Revealed: Hospital history book tops the wish lists

24 Nov, 2011

Among the Scandinavian crime stories, celebrity biographies and cookery books, you might be surprised to find an e-book with a difference in Amazon’s top 20 downloads list. Broadmoor Revealed: Victorian Crime and the Lunatic Asylum gives readers a behind the scenes glimpse at the Hospital that was once England’s first Criminal Lunatic Asylum.

Published by the Berkshire Record Office, the county archives based in Reading, the book was made possible by a large project supported by the Wellcome Trust to catalogue and conserve around 3000 volumes and 7000 papers of patient case notes and institutional records from the archives of Broadmoor Hospital. The aim of the project was to ensure the long term survival of some of the most important mental health records in the UK and enable researchers and historians to gain access to the records for the first time.

Now, the Record Office has compiled a number of short stories in a free ebook that has been peaking in the download charts.

Focused on the Victorian period over one hundred years ago, the book tells the stories of some of the hospital’s best-known patients. There is Edward Oxford, who shot at Queen Victoria, and Richard Dadd, the brilliant artist and murderer of his father. There is also William Chester Minor, the surgeon from America who killed a stranger in London, then played a key role in creating the world’s finest dictionary. Finally, there is Christiana Edmunds, ‘The Chocolate Cream Poisoner’ and frustrated lover.

In addition to these infamous tales, the book reveals previously unknown stories of patients including five women who went on to become mothers in Broadmoor, giving birth to life when three of them had previously taken it. The book also recounts the numerous escapes, actual and attempted, as the first doctors tried to assert control over their residents.

The book reveals what life was really like for the criminally insane in Victorian England and is described as ‘stories from the edge of where true crime meets mental illness’.

Today, Broadmoor Hospital is better-known for the pioneering clinical treatments it offers and as an international centre of research and expertise than for the patients it treats. In recent years, it’s opened its doors to the media to help de-stigmatise the illnesses of those living there. But the recent success of its ebook shows that the public’s fascination with the Hospital’s history knows no bounds.

Broadmoor Revealed: Victorian Crime and the Lunatic Asylum was available online for free from the Berkshire Record Office, Amazon and iTunes. A new version is due to be published in 2013.

See also this article from the Telegraph about how the Broadmoor files provided new evidence on Britain’s most notorious unsolved serial killer case: Jack the Ripper.

Image Credit: Wellcome Images

Updated 5 November 2012 to clarify current availability of the ebook.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Brian permalink
    27 Oct, 2012 12:44 am

    The links to the e-book do not exist where can I find it?

    • 5 Nov, 2012 2:55 pm

      Dear Brian,
      Thanks for your interest. It seems the ebook is not available at the moment but we are expecting a revised version to be published next year. We’ll update the links when it is.
      Best wishes

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