This superb book combines both the experience of the patient and the eye of the historian. Riveting, insightful and relentlessly honest, it is both social history and memoir, and makes an important contribution to contemporary debates on the treatment of mental distress (Darian Leader)
We believe our response to mental illness is more enlightened, kinder and effective than that of the Victorians who built the asylums. Can we be sure? Barbara Taylor's sombre investigation, calling on personal experience, challenges complacency, exposes shallow thinking, and points out the flaws and dangers of treatment on the cheap. It is a wise, considered and timely book (Hilary Mantel)
Beautiful . . . it is hard to write well enough about this book because it is so good (Susie Orbach Independent)
Moving, brave and intelligent (Susan Hill The Times)
Exquisitely written and provocative (Sunday Times)
Dazzling . . . a tale that compels you to keep turning the pages . . . a great achievement, full of life and hope (Sunday Telegraph)
The Last Asylum is Barbara Taylor's journey through mental illness and the psychiatric health care system.
The Last Asylum begins with Barbara Taylor's visit to the innocuously named Princess Park Manor in Friern Barnet, North London -- a picture of luxury and repose. But this is the former site of one of England's most infamous lunatic asylums, the Middlesex County Pauper Lunatic Aslyum at Colney Hatch. At its peak this asylum housed nearly 3,000 patients -- among them, in the 1980s, Barbara Taylor herself.
The Last Asylum is Taylor's powerful account of her battle with mental illness, set inside the wider story of the end of the UK asylum system.
Barbara Taylor's previous books include an award-winning study of nineteenth-century socialist feminism, Eve and the New Jerusalem; an intellectual biography of the pioneer feminist Mary Wollstonecraft; and On Kindness, a defence of fellow feeling co-written with the psychoanalyst Adam Phillips. She is a longstanding editor of the leading history journal, History Workshop Journal, and a director of the Raphael Samuel History Centre. She teaches history and English at Queen Mary University of London.