Mental health at Sea, 1740-1820

Essential information

Event type: 
Date and time: 
26 February | 5.15pm - 6.30pm
Talks & courses

Join us for a free talk in central London on mental health in the Georgian navy by historian Dr Catherine Beck. All are welcome and there is no need to book. 

What happened to those who suffered from mental health problems at sea? What did it mean to be ‘mad’ in the Royal Navy? How were ‘mad’ sailors and ‘drunken’ sailors viewed differently? 

Join Dr Beck (Pearsall Fellow, Institute of Historical Research) as she explores experiences of mental illness in the Royal Navy of the 1700s and early 1800s. Hear how ships’ surgeons and courts martial sought to understand and treat ‘madness’ when life at sea exposed men to hard drinking, exhaustion, head injuries, sunstroke, loneliness and grief, all believed by contemporaries to cause insanity.

Few sailors treated for insanity reached the private asylum in London where the navy housed its ‘Lunatic Seamen’. Many were treated at sea or in hospitals ashore, and others were cared for in port-town communities or by their messmates aboard ship. Dr Beck takes us beyond modern approaches towards mental illness to consider the emotional and physical pressures which shaped sailors’ lives and underpinned maritime societies.

Maritime History & Culture Seminars 2018/19:

Please note that this seminar will now take place in Room W2.06, Institute of Education, 20 Bedford Way, Bloomsbury, London, WC1H 0AL. This is a five minute walk from our usual venue at the Institute of Historical Research.