in the Age of Madness
The Regency Era was an incredibly important turning point in the societal perceptions of, treatments of, and legal ramifications of mental illness in England. The class will cover various aspects of mental illness during this era of incredible change, when insanity in all of its various forms came out into the open to be discussed, legislated, managed, and debated by citizens from the slums of Seven Dials to the wealthiest stately homes in the realm.
Topics to be covered will include:
- The madness of King George III and how it changed society’s perceptions and ideas about mental illness.
- The doctors who treated mental illness during the Regency and their various theories of mental illness and its treatments.
- Laws enacted to cover various aspects of mental illness.
- The various forms of madhouses and asylums present during the Regency.
- The wide spectrum of treatments – from the insightful to the ridiculous to the downright cruel – afforded those diagnosed as mentally ill.
- The various steps necessary to have someone declared insane and the levels of insanity those steps governed.
- Perceptions and legal ramifications of suicide during the Regency.
- Women and mental illness.
- Significant cases of mental illness during the Regency – the cases that changed or provided detailed documentation of treatment during this nascent era of modern psychiatry.
- The insanity defense in Regency courts.
- The treatment of mental illness at home.
- Regency appropriate vocabulary – terms for mental illness in all of its aspects and manifestations.
In addition to the class materials I will be providing an extensive bibliography for those who wish to explore this fascinating and often heartbreaking subject further.
Lesson One – Let the Madness Begin
Introduction / Regency Era Terms / Modern Equivalents.
Lesson Two – Mad Dogs and Englishmen
Perceptions of Mental Illness in England prior to 1800.
Lesson Three – The Mad King
King George III – His Illness, Timeline, Treatment, and Theories of his Diagnosis.
Lesson Four – Mad Doctors
The leading experts on mental illness in the Regency Era (Wrong, Right, or Worse.)
Lesson Five – Mad Laws
Regency Era laws governing diagnosis, treatment, and housing of the mentally ill.
Lesson Six – Mad Houses
Regency England’s madhouses, asylums, and sanitoriums.
Lesson Seven – Mad Relations in the Attic
How, where, and why one might keep the family’s unfortunate relations at home.
Lesson Eight – Mad Medicine
Regency Era treatments for Mental Illness (from the Divine to the Ridiculous.)
Lesson Nine – The Worst Sort of Madness
The religious and non-religious beliefs and stigmas attached to suicide.
Lesson Ten – Legally Mad
The insanity defense in Regency Era courts.
Lesson Eleven – He is not merely mad; he is most sincerely mad.
The processes for having a person declared legally insane and / or incompetent and why.
Lesson Twelve – Frailty Thy Name is Madness
The uses and abuses of mental illness diagnoses to keep women in their proper place.
Lesson Thirteen – Love as Madness
The changing view of homosexuality from sin to madness.
Lesson Fourteen – The Madness of Being Different
Physical and intellectual differences diagnosed and treated as mental illness. This will include a variety of conditions ranging from learning disabilities to epilepsy to PTSD.
Lesson Fifteen – Mad, Bad, and Fascinating to Know
Important and infamous cases of madness in the Regency Era.
Bibliography, Questions, and Wrap-Up