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About this work


A dramatised documentary history of Bethlem, one of the most infamous mental hospitals in London with its origins in the sixteenth century. The documentary uses contemporary historical records (prints, letters and etchings) describing the conditions in the hospital, which even in their time caused a sensation. The migration of the Bethlem hospital around London is chronicled. Surprisingly, the hospital was on the tourist trail with income being generated from visitors. Treatments and famous 'mad' patients such as King George III are described. King George's health becomes a topic of public interest. Then, just as King George returns to health after a regime of subjugation, a typical treatment, the French Revolution breaks out causing political anxiety and unrest. James Tilly Matthews accused the home secretary of treason in the course of some of this political instability resulting in him being delivered into the hands of James Haslam, the resident apothecary and de facto head of Bethlem hospital. After detailed consultations with Matthews, and unbeknowst to him, Haslam wrote a book 'Illustrations on insanity", featuring Matthews as the first documented case of what we understand today as a form of paranoid schizophrenia. Later, Haslam's regime is put under scrutiny. In 1852 with the appointment of Charles Hood, the institution was completely reformed as patients were categorised and appropriate activities were provided. Finally Bethlem Hospital has had its final incarnation, locating to a beautiful, green wooded location in Beckenham, Kent.


UK : The History Channel, 2009.

Physical description

1 DVD (48 min.) : sound, color, PAL
1 videocassette (HDCAM) (48 min.) : sound, color, PAL

Copyright note

Access copy.


Broadcast in March 2010 (exact date not found) and repeated 9th May, 2010
Wellcome Trust grant output: grantholder; Joe Matthews, grant number; 081487/Z/06/Z, grant type; History of Medicine Public Engagement Awards .

Creator/production credits

Produced and directed by Joe Matthews for Seneca Productions.



Where to find it

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