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Peter Barham's Closing the Asylum: The Mental Patient in Modern Society remains the best overall study and critique of the asylum system, from inception and theoretical foundations to closure and beyond. (Reissued in 2020 with a new preface and prologue)


Most monographs on hospitals are quite technical affairs, focusing on buildings, staffing and treatment trends. A clear exception is Diana Gittins's Madness in its Place: Narratives of Severalls Hospital 1913-1997, which offers a balanced and compassionate insight into life in a psychiatric hospital, and features abundant quotes from patients and staff. 

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Speaking Our Minds and Mental Health User Narratives are two sources of patient/survivor voice and provide additional useful context. 


Critical psychiatrist Joanna Moncrieff's work offers a rigorous and engaging challenge to the biological and medical model of mental disturbance. She addresses the role of the psychiatric establishment, the state, pharmaceutical companies; and debunks the flawed but still-pervasive notion of chemical imbalances.

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Ruins (2011), edited by Brian Dillon, is an anthology that acts as a good starting point for thinking on abandonment and contemporary ruins (and features writers such as Rebecca Solnit, Nina Power, and J.G. Ballard.)

The most interesting work on abandoned places falls within the loose bracket of nature and landscape writing. There is a long tradition of writing about "edgelands" such as Richard Jefferies' Nature Near London (1883) and Richard Mabey's The Unofficial Countryside (1972), and the countless books that followed in their wake. Of more recent works, Cal Flyn's excellent Islands of Abandonment (2021) details several remarkable locations, and points the way to a much more nuanced examination of the ecology of abandoned places. 

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[The following artefacts may also be of interest: The Wall, a novel by Marlen Haushofer, and Stalker, a film by Andrei Tarkovsky]

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