Lecture by Dr. Catherine Beck: Mental Health at Sea, 1740-1820
February 26, 2019
Presented as part of the Maritime History & Culture Seminar Series, National Maritime Museum Greenwich
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.
The seminar takes place from 5.15pm to 6.30pm in Wolfson Room I, Institute of Historical Research, Senate House, London, WC1E 7HU. This event is free and there is no need to book in advance. For more information please visit the Royal Museums Greenwich website.