The madman in the White House

What we can say about the psyche of world leaders

Is Putin mad? Is Trump crazy? Such questions are very easy to ask, but very difficult to answer. Why do we want to find psychiatric reasons for the behaviour of our world leaders, rather than explaining their actions in moral terms? And what do we do when the future of millions around the world actually does depend on the decisions of a mentally compromised leader?

After securing victory in the First World War, the U.S. President Woodrow Wilson’s handling of the 1919 Treaty of Versailles – which was destructive and irrational – made everyone question his mental health. The American diplomat William C. Bullit enlisted the help of his friend Sigmund Freud, and wrote a psychobiography of the President. In 2014, political scientist Patrick Weil first found this original document in the archives of Yale University. He has now published the book The Madman in the White House.

About the speakers

Patrick Weil is a French political scientist. He is a senior research fellow at the Centre for the Social History of the 20th Century at the Sorbonne University. He is a visiting scholar at Yale Law School and most widely known for his work on immigration, citizenship and separation of church and state in France. In 2023, he published the book The Madman in the White House


Patrick WeilPolitical scientist
Casper ThomasFormer correpondent in the USA
Evert van der ZweerdePolitical philosopher, specialized in Russia

Image: Marit Breuker