expressed that it will not be long before he does provide us with that (as yet) sublimated 'personal statement'. D. P. KIRBY Aberystwyth MENTAL DISORDER IN Earlier BRITAIN: EXPLORATORY STUDIES. By Basil Clarke. University of Wales Press, Cardiff, 1975. Pp. xii, 335; illus. 20. £ 10.00. Psychiatry provides a fertile field for speculation. Because it includes disorders of emotion and thought, the concept of mental abnormality has varied in both national and historical cultures. Pathological mech- anisms of the mind are less clearly understood than those of the body, although the primary nature of an anatomical, infective or biochemical aetiology on which the environmental factors are superimposed is now largely accepted. There is, furthermore, the confusion that arises from the special effects of law and religion in this field, with the need to distinguish between insanity and crime, as well as eccentricity and saintliness. Basil Clarke has given some regard to the particular nature of these problems in writing of mental illness and its contemporary meaning in earlier historical periods. There is a disadvantage in the hindsight granted by modern diagnosis, particularly when diagnosis is as inexact as that of modern psychiatry. But although aware of it, he does not altogether avoid it. So many of the modern classifications of mental illness are still only convenient groups of signs and symptoms with similar prognoses, that scarcely rank more than syndromes obscured by our limited know- ledge of their aetiology. It is a pity, for example, after making a most interesting contemporary description of the illness of King Henry VI, that he has allowed himself the temptation of attaching the unlikely label of catatonic schizophrenia. It really is not possible to do so on the evidence offered and it adds nothing to our understanding. In his description of mental disorder in early Welsh law, he is wrong to state that the relatives of an idiot, cleric, leper or dumb man were excluded from galanas. The converse is true, and indeed more rational. It was the idiot relative of the offender or his victim who was precluded from payment or receipt of galanas. Furthermore, the clafwr of the Laws of Hywel Dda and the Hiberniensis elephantiosus were contemporarily known as lepers. The mutilations were recognisably similar to those of Hansen's Disease of modern leprosy and the skin was often likened to that of an elephant. In Britain it was unlikely to be confused with the elephantiasis caused by filaria bancrofti. Leprosy-then or now- was not a generic term for a variety of skin diseases, although other skin diseases might in the early stages have been mistakenly diagnosed for it. Great care was taken to establish the diagnosis of leprosy, because of the perils to the liberty of the leper if the writ de leproso amovendo was invoked. John of Gaddesden, in his Rosa Anglica, asked that 'no one is adjudged a leper, and separated from intercourse of mankind, until the figure and form of the face is actually changed'.