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Bedlam: London and its Mad

Speaker Catharine Arnold takes a look at the history of the world's oldest psychiatric hospital.

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’ in Moorfields designed by Robert Hooke, through to the great Victorian hospital in Lambeth, now the Imperial War Museum. Catharine Arnold will take us on a tour of Bedlam and its famous residents — from jilted Margaret Nicholson, who tried to assassinate George III with a dessert knife, to the artist Richard Dadd, who murdered his own father — while providing an overview of psychiatric treatment through the ages, from electric shock treatment with live eels to the Elizabethan remedy for madness, a roasted mouse eaten whole.

Speaker Catharine Arnold read English at the University of Cambridge and holds a further degree in psychology. Previous books include Necropolis, London and its Dead.


Catherine Arnold | talks


Date and Time:

24 March 2009 at 7:30 pm


1 hour 30 minutes



Bishopsgate Institute
230 Bishopsgate
020 7392 9200

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£7, concessions £5; advance booking required

Available from:

Call 020 7392 9220 between 9.30am and 5.30pm, Monday to Friday.

Additional Information:

Bishopsgate Institute is two minutes walk from Liverpool Street station.

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