(Augusta State University)
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Scholars have misunderstood and, subsequently, misrepresented the treatment, care, and custody of the mentally incapacitated of the Middle Ages. The ‘mad’ were protected under the laws of England, and those with property cared for by the crown. Since the appearance of Michel Foucault’s work, Madness and Civilization, many scholars have assumed his view of the mentally disabled from literary sources of the Middle Ages as reality. Yet, Foucault’s work is not history and new works have recently established that the mentally incapacitated were neither ill‐treated nor excluded from society. Most mentally disabled persons remained active members of society, and beginning in the thirteenth century, those who were feudal landlords received special legal attention and care from the crown. This paper examines the crown’s legal and administrative treatment of the mentally disabled in late medieval England.