Bed­lam’s his­tory goes on­line

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - ON THE RECORD -

Pa­tient and staff records from one of the world’s most fa­mous psy­chi­atric hospi­tals have been made avail­able to search via find­my­past.co.uk.

Digi­tised fol­low­ing a part­ner­ship with the new Beth­lem Mu­seum of the Mind, the 248,000-strong record col­lec­tion pro­vides a de­tailed ac­count of life at Lon­don’s Royal Beth­lem Hos­pi­tal – bet­ter known as ‘Bed­lam’.

Span­ning 1683 to 1932, the var­ied col­lec­tion in­cludes ad­mis­sion reg­is­ters, pa­tient case­books, dis­charge lists, death reg­is­ters and staff salary books.

Fully search­able, each record is linked to a high-res­o­lu­tion scan of the orig­i­nal doc­u­ment, in some cases also of­fer­ing a pho­to­graph of an an­ces­tor who would have been re­garded a ‘ lu­natic’ at the time.

“Th­ese records pro­vide, for the very first time on­line, a real in­sight into life in this in­fa­mous in­sti­tu­tion,” said De­bra Chat­field, fam­ily his­to­rian at Find­my­past. “It’s hard not to em­pathise with the in­mates as you learn about their of­ten har­row­ing and tragic sto­ries.”

Bed­lam’s se­cond site at Moor­fields, 1810

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