Was mental health care in the past as barbaric as we might think? John McGowan finds out about some innovators of the Victorian era.

What do we think of mental health treatments in the 19th century? My own mind conjures up shocking images of asylums, like the one where people were caged up in the film Amadeus, or the ‘Madhouse’ of Bedlam in Hogarth’s A Rake’s Progress (pictured above). Both were actually set in the 18th Century but it’s all folded into a general impression of imprisonment with some torture thrown in. (Bedlam, incidentally, is a corruption of the name of The St. Mary of Bethlehem Hospital in London which still exists, though we now know it as The Bethlem.)