I usually read non-fiction when not reading Children’s books and that tends to veer towards social history, and more specifically, 18th Century London. I blame my Dad for this; his light reading of choice is either fantasy or Napoleonic naval warfare…
Catharine Arnold’s Bedlam looks at the history of the Bethlem Hospital, the first hospital to specialise in mental illness. This runs from its setting up in Bishopsgate the 13th Century, through the 18th Century when people could pay to view the patients as if they were in a zoo (as shown in the plate from Hogarth’s A Rake’s Progress, used for the jacket image) and on to the modern day. Of course alongside the history it shows us the treatment of, and social views on, mental illness and how that changed over the past centuries. This institution gave us the term bedlam, and I find it strangely fascinating.
Well, that’s a cheerful thing for a Monday lunchtime. If you’re looking for other non-fiction titles, Dan Cruickshank’s Secret History of Georgian London is wonderful (and makes you stand outside certain houses in Soho pointing out where the brothels used to be and scaring tourists).
So, what have you lot read over the weekend? Hopefully something a bit more upbeat..?