Murders and Madness examines the French debate over crime and madness in the fin de siècle. She argues that psychiatric theories of human behaviour and new sociological interpretations of crime combined to undermine the traditional foundations of the penal system and helped to shape the new science of criminology. As a result, traditional notions of free will and moral responsibility were eroded as new and often draconian strategies evolved from managerial
practices developed mainly by medical men. This book offers a detailed examination of the radical politique criminelle they devised. Harris breaks down the conventional boundaries between
intellectual and social history by linking the often esoteric formulations of the professionals to the defendants' own mental anguish and emotional despair. Both aspects were involved in developing the meaning of moral and social responsibility in 'modern society'. She demonstrates how the debate over crime and madness, aired during the courtroom trials, repeatedly touched on some of the most widespread anxieties of the era which focused on the politics of gender and class. Through a series of
case studies, she looks specifically at discussions of feminine hysteria and women's sexuality; male alcoholism and racial degeneration; crimes of passion, crowd violence and revolutionary politics.
'Harris has written a useful, compendious, suggestive, often sensitive book.'
Times Literary Supplement
'the book's painstaking analysis of dozens of cases from the Paris courts over the period 1880 to 1910 gives it an authoritative tone that will not easily be challenged'
Edward Shorter, University of Toronto, Medical History
'Harris pushes beyond an analysis of existing scholarship to mine a rich vein of relevant but little-used primary source material: the official dossiers and records of murder cases at the Assizes court in Paris during the period from 1880 to 1910 ... Harris has written a fascinating and valuable book.'
Edward J. Larson, University of Georgia, Journal of the British Society for the History of Science
'a meticulously researched study of medico-legal debates in nineteenth-century France'
History Workshop Journal
'From this work one gains useful insights into the workings of the French legal system. This information is valuable and marks another step in the evolution of a Foucault-influenced historiography.'
Sharif Gemie, Cheltenham & Gloucester College of Higher Education, Modern & Contemporary France, No.42 Oct '90
'an intelligent and well-researched study'
British Journal of Criminology, Vol.30, No.4 Autumn '90
'This is a book of serious scholarship whose concentration of detail and frequently changing units of analysis demands discipline and concentration from it readers. Murder and Madness is an impressive achievement by any standard; an example, in my view, of social history of medicine at its scholarly best.'
Anne Harrington, Harvard University, Social History of Medicine, Volume 3, Number 3, December 1990
`Harris's impressive ability to expound complex psychological, physiological and medicolegal debates makes this a fascinating monograph. She has a firm grasp of social history and offers a convincing analysis of the changing status of the medical profession.'
'elegantly researched and richly textured book ... this remains throughout a stimulating and imaginative book that should command the attention of cultural, social, and gender historians as well as historians of science and medicine.'
Jan Goldstein, University of Chiacgo, American Historical Review, December 1991