Improving modern mental health through the lessons of history

Activity: Talk or presentation typesPublic lecture/debate/seminar


Talk at Bethlem Royal Hospital Saturday 5 August 2017
When I visited Bethlem Museum of the Mind earlier this year I was lucky enough to be invited by the archivist, Colin Gale, to talk to the monthly seminar, run under the auspices of Bethlem Royal Hospital, about my project ‘Improving modern mental health through the lessons of history’. The museum it is part of a leafy ‘cottage hospital’ style complex at Beckenham in Kent, opened around 1930. The hospital itself is part of South London and Maudsley NHS Trust, which works closely with the Institute of Psychiatry. I talked about why I did the podcasts and my plans for future ones. I outlined who is using them and how, bringing out the difference they have made outside the realms of academia. And I explained the future I hope the project will take: travelling photograph explanations of Victorian asylum patients, dramatic performances in schools, and participation in science festivals. The audience for my talk comprised a lively and interesting cross section of healthcare professionals, patients, family, and those with historical and medical interests. Some arrived early so I was able to talk to people both before and after. It is always particularly valuable to engage with those from outside academia, because they ask very different questions, often ‘big’ and challenging - whereas fellow historians tend to focus on specifics. The talk reminded me what a huge range of disciplines and interests come under the umbrella of mental health and its history: medicine, of course, but also philosophy, sociology, politics, economics, and anthropology.
Period5 Aug 2017
Event titleBethlem Royal Hospital monthly seminar
Event typeSeminar
LocationBeckenham, United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionRegional


  • History of Medicine
  • psychiatry
  • mental health
  • mental disorders