Since writing last fortnight’s blog post about recent visitors to the museum from Norway and Austria, the Archivist has continued in reminiscing mood. One visit that stands out in his mind was made some years ago by Peruvian documentary film-makers interested in the visit made to Bethlem by the French socialist and proto-feminist thinker Flora Tristan in 1840. She signed Bethlem’s visitors’ book (now held in the Archives) and later wrote of her experiences in Promenades dans Londres (published in English translation under the title Flora Tristan’s London Journal 1840).
In it she makes the ostensibly unflattering observation that ‘it is generally accepted that England is the country with the greatest number of insane’. But an explanation is offered for this: England is, according to Tristan, ‘the country where free inquiry gives rise to the greatest number of religious and philosophical sects…[and] the more a people is inclined, by its religion and its philosophy, to resignation, the fewer madmen there are in its midst; whereas those peoples who by reason govern their religious beliefs and their conduct in life are those among whom one finds the greatest number of insane’ (London Journal, pp. 159-160).
Following in the footsteps of those Peruvian documentary makers, another film crew is coming (at short notice) to the Archives & Museum next Monday, 5 July. Please note that the Archives & Museum, which is ordinarily open to the public on weekdays between 9.30am and 4.30pm, will have to close at midday on this day to accommodate them.