Bedlam Exhibit Opens

Imperial War Museum, formerly BethlemOver 750 years ago, a small priory just outside of London — St. Mary’s of Bethlehem — opened its doors. Soon after, it began taking in and caring for the mad. The institution, later know simply as Bethlem (or Bedlam), gradually became the most famous (and sometimes notorious) mental asylum in the English speaking world. It moved several times over the centuries, and now exists as the Bethlem Royal Hospital in Kent, a short train ride southeast of London.

The history of this venerable institution is now on display in the gallery at the hospital’s current site in the form of an exhibition of antique prints from the personal collection of Michael Trimble, an emeritus professor of behavioral neurology. According to an article about the exhibit in the Guardian, Trimble says:

Starting my training in psychiatry at the Bethlem immediately made me aware of the proud and ­fascinating ­history of psychiatry, and the elegance of some of its associated architecture…. This led to my building up a library of antiquarian books in ­neurology and psychiatry. These ­pictures and prints relate to the history of one of the most important intellectual disciplines within medicine.

The exhibit continues only until the 12th of February.

About Christopher Green

Professor of Psychology at York University (Toronto). Former editor of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences. Creator of the "Classics in the History of Psychology" website and of the "This Week in the History of Psychology" podcast series.