We have trial access to Records from Bethlem Royal Hospital, 1559-1932 through British Online Archives until 12 October 2023. This resource is useful for the study of mental health care throughout the ages.
Bethlem Royal Hospital is a psychiatric facility in London. It was established as a priory of the Order of St Mary of Bethlehem in 1247, before beginning to care for mentally ill patients sometime in the 14th century. Often referred to colloquially as ‘Bedlam’—and generally accepted to be the origin of the very same noun—past incarnations of the institution were infamous for their questionable diagnosis of mental illness and poor treatment of patients.
This collection contains four centuries’ and 130,000 images’ worth of records from Bethlem. The records are diverse in both form and subject matter. They include: voluntary and criminal admission registers; discharge and death registers; male and female patient casebooks; minutes of the Court of Governors; and staff salary books. All handwritten items have been fully transcribed.
Scholars and students alike will find that, together, the records provide a unique insight into the evolution of so-called lunacy laws—from an early reliance on control of the mentally ill through coercion and restraint to the later emergence of doctrines of self-discipline and moral management.
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