The mad have always been with us. Bethlehem Hospital, or 'Bedlam' as it became in cockney slang, is the world's oldest psychiatric hospital. Founded in 1247 it developed from a ramshackle hovel to the magnificent 'Palace Beautiful', where visitors could pay to gawp at the chained inmates, through to the great Victorian hospital in Lambeth, now the Imperial War Museum.
Catharine Arnold takes us on a tour of Bedlam and examines London's attitude to madness along the way. We travel through the ages, from the barbaric 'exorcisms' of the medieval period to the Tudor belief that a roast mouse, eaten whole, was the cure. We see the reforming zeal of eighteenth century campaigners and the development of the massive Victorian asylums. This was the era of the private madhouse, run by 'traders in lunacy' who asked no questions and locked up insane and sane alike at the behest of greedy relatives. But it was also the age of determined reformers who eventually made their way into Bedlam and exposed conditions of terrible deprivation and brutality.
About the Author
Catharine Arnold read English at Cambridge University and holds a further degree in psychology. A journalist, academic and historian, Catharine's previous books include the novel Lost Time and the acclaimed Necropolis: London and Its Dead, as well as other books on facets of London's history. She lives in Nottingham.
'Elegantly written and richly anecdotal . . . This is a thought-provoking book . . . with many parallels to the present.' Daily Mail
'A finely written, thoroughly researched and humane book, packed with moving stories.' Independent
'Smoothly written, densely researched . . . When you close this rewardingly informative and tastefully conceived book, you will be the richer for it.' Sunday Express