01 February 2019

1st February 1800 - James Norris Admitted to Bethlem


On 1st February 1800 — James Norris, an American Marine, was admitted to Bethlem Hospital. Norris's violent behavior resulted in his being restrained in 1804 in an iron apparatus that prevented him from moving farther than a standing posture next to his bed. Ten years later, Norris was discovered by a visitor Edward Wakefield in deteriorating health in 1814. Wakefield requested an etching of Norris by George Cruickshank which went on sale and became one of the most influential pictures in the history of mental health.

Public outcry on hearing this story and seeing the picture led to a government inquiry. Six members of parliament visited Norris during 1814, each maintaining that he was rational and quiet. This then led to the passing of England’s Mad House Act of 1828 for licensing and regulating such houses, and improving treatment.

Thankyou to Today in Psychology History for the date.

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