Catharine Arnold


"Bedlam!" The very name, derived from a nickname for the Bethlehem Hospital, conjures up graphic images of naked patients in filthy conditions, or parading untended wards deluded that they are Napoleon or Jesus Christ. This common image of madness can be traced to William Hogarth's 1735Rake's Progress series, which depicts Bedlam as a freak show providing entertainment for Londoners between trips to the zoo, puppet shows, and public executions. That this is still the most powerful image of Bedlam, more than two centuries later, says much about the prevailing attitude to mental illness, although the Bedlam of the popular imagination is long gone. The hospital was relocated to the suburbs of Kent in 1930, and Sydney Smirke's impressive Victorian building in Southwark took on a new role as the Imperial War Museum. Following the historical narrative structure of Necropolis, this history examines the capital's treatment of the insane over the centuries, from the founding of Bethlehem Hospital in 1247 through the heyday of the great Victorian asylums to the more enlightened attitudes that prevail today.

Book Details:

  • Author: Catharine Arnold
  • Published Year: 2008
  • Rights Sold
    • UK: Simon & Schuster

Catharine Arnold

Catharine Arnold is the author of the much-acclaimed London quartet, a series of books about the dark side of the capital, consisting of Necropolis, London and its Dead, Bedlam, London and its Mad, City of Sin, London and its Vices and Underworld, London City of Crime and Punishment. (All Simon & Schuster). City of Sin has been published in the United States as The Sexual History of London (St Martin’s Press.) Catharine Arnold’s latest book, Globe, Life in Shakespeare’s London was published by Simon and Schuster in April 2015. Catharine’s first novel, Lost Time, ...
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Book Reviews

  • "Elegantly written and richly anecdotal."
    Daily Mail
  • "A finely written, thoroughly researched and humane book, packed with moving stories."
  • "What a dark undertow tugs away at the reader's imagination in this smoothly written, densely researched book"
    Sunday Express