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This Way Madness Lies

The Asylum and Beyond

Mike Jay


A compelling illustrated exploration of the evolution of the asylum and attitudes to the insane from the 17th century to the present day

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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.

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'Superb…the text exhibits all the lucidity you could wish for when struggling to apprehend this most disturbing and problematic of subjects'
Will Self, The London Review of Books

'Fascinating and lavishly illustrated'
Wall Street Journal

'A fascinating tour d’horizon'

'Immaculately researched … essential reading'
The Psychologist

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Product Information

Book Details

Format: PLC (with jacket)

Size: 27.9 x 17.9 cm

Extent: 256 pp

Publication date: 15 September 2016

ISBN: 9780500518977

Contents List

Introduction • 1. The Madhouse 1676–1815 • 2. The Lunatic Asylum 1815–1930 3. The Mental Hospital 1930 and beyond • Epilogue

About the Author

Mike Jay has written widely on the cultural history of science, medicine and the mind. His books include The Influencing Machine, The Story of James Tilly Matthews and his Confinement in Eighteenth-century Bedlam and High Society: Mind-altering Drugs in History and Culture. He reviews regularly for The London Review of Books and The Wall Street Journal. This Way Madness Lies was written in conjunction with the exhibition 'Bedlam: the asylum and beyond', which he co-curated for the Wellcome Collection in London. He is a research affiliate of the Health Humanities Centre at University College London and a trustee of the Bethlem Art and History Collection.

List of Contributors

Wellcome Collection