Is mental illness – or madness – at root an illness of the body, a disease of the mind or a sickness of the soul? This Way Madness Lies is a thought-provoking exploration of the history of madness and its treatment as seen through the lens of its proverbial home: the Royal Bethlem Hospital, London, popularly known as Bedlam. Organized chronologically, the book explores the meaning of mental illness through the successive incarnations of the institution that defined it: the 18th-century madhouse, the 19th-century asylum and the 20th-century mental hospital.
Moving and sometimes provocative illustrations sourced from the Wellcome Trust’s exceptional collection and the Royal Bethlem Hospital’s archive highlight the trajectory of each era of institution: founded in the optimistic spirit of humanitarian reform but eventually dismantled amid accusations of cruelty and neglect. Each chapter concludes with a selection of revealing and captivating artwork created by asylum patients and other artists from each era of the institution and beyond. Compelling and intriguing, these artworks express the personalities and attitudes of the originators far more powerfully than descriptions of their conditions.