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HIS3203 : Madness, Nerves and Narratives in Georgian Britain, c. 1714-1830

  • Offered for Year: 2019/20
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Jonathan Andrews
  • Owning School: History, Classics and Archaeology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


This module offers the opportunity to study Georgian Britain, with a special focus on the history of madness and nervous disorders. It will assess medical and socio-cultural understandings, representations and treatments of mental disorders and how they changed. Students will gain an appreciation of the social, cultural and economic influences, as well as the professional and political ideologies, which shaped the history of madness, and medical and societal responses to madness. The module will raise issues and questions which continue to be pertinent in modern mental health contexts.

The aims of this module are:
1) To provide an in depth study of the history of social, medical and legal responses to madness and nervous disorders in Britain (primarily focusing on England and, to a lesser degree, Scotland) during 1714-1830, appropriate to the standard required of Stage 3 students.
2) To provide an analytical assessment of medical and socio-cultural understandings, representations and treatments of mental disorders and how they changed in this period.
3) To familiarise students with contemporaries’ own accounts or narratives of their mental afflictions and treatment, and with the various methodological means available for analysing such narratives as historical evidence.
4) To articulate some of the key theories and explanations historians (and allied disciplines) have employed to study the history of madness and nervous disorder, and some of the key methodological approaches and issues pertinent to this area of analysis.
5) To offer an opportunity to acquire a sound general knowledge of this specialist subject, through i) wide, selective and critical reading in the relevant primary and secondary literature ii) seminar-based, peer led, and tutor facilitated discussion, debate and oral presentation.
6) To develop the capacity for independent study.

Outline Of Syllabus

Five lectures at the start of the module followed by three at the end of the module will introduce key
concepts and themes in relation to the module outline, with weekly seminars building upon this
navigational framework.

One 2 hour surgery session with students with discuss formative assessment mock exam gobbet practice.

An additional 2 hour seminar will give students the oppportunity to have some exposure to a critical evaluation of public history, via watching and dscussing a tv dramatisation on the history of Bethlem Hospital. This will mean in just 2 weeks there will be 5 contact hours; comprised of 2x 2hours of hours of seminar plus 1 hour lecture, and in the other week of 2 hours of seminar plus 2 hours of surgery, plus 1 hour of lecture, but in most weeks there will be 3 contact hours: 2 hours of seminar and 1 hour of lecture.

Each weeky seminar will be devoted to studying primary (and some secondary) source material (in reprinted form).
Examples of the topics likely to be explored are as follows:-

Introduction to the history, pre-history and historiography of madness in Georgian Britain
Being mad and melancholic in Georgian England: signs, symptoms, and prevailing/changing understandings
Seeing the mad in Georgian England: prevailing and changing representations
The ‘English Malady’ and the discovery of nervous disorders
Treating the mad and melancholic; dominant therapeutic approaches and their rationales
Confining the mad: the origins and extent of the shift towards institutional solutions to madness
The growth of the private mad-trade: private mad-houses and their regulation
Narratives of madness and nervousness: sufferers’ own accounts of their mental afflictions/confinement
Outside the madhouse: non-institutional responses to insanity
Madness and monarchy (embracing the madness of George III)
The Georgian State and the lunatic; legislating lunacy
A paradigm shift? the arrival of a ‘moral’ therapeutics

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion551:0055:001/3 of guided independent study
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture81:008:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading551:0055:001/3 of guided independent study
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching112:0022:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops22:004:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery12:002:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study541:0054:001/3 of guided independent study
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The combination of lectures and seminars is designed to encourage an active and student-led approach to learning.
Lectures are intended to introduce core themes, impart core knowledge and an outline of knowledge that students are expected to acquire by providing a guide to key reading.
They will require students to practice note-taking and active listening and stimulate the development of these skills.
Seminars encourage independent study and promote improvements in oral presentation, interpersonal communication, problem-solving skills and adaptability.
Preparation for seminars will require students to undertake a programme of private reading, requiring good time management and personal responsibility for learning. Within each seminar, groups of 3 or 4 students will undertake to prepare and present a talk from week 3, which will require efficient teamwork. The seminar presentation, and general discussion, will develop the oral communication skills of team members. Seminar preparation will require the student to read and analyse critically a wide range of literature.
Obligatory seminars encourage participation and preparation, and are part of the formative experience of the module, even though they are not assessed. The preparation for seminar presentations will give students the opportunity to deepen their knowledge of the Georgian period through private reading, as well as encourage teamwork in small groups.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written Examination1801A75Unseen
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay1M25Essay/doc.commentary of 1,500 to 2,000 words (including footnotes but excluding bibliography)
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Written Examination1MIn house test, Documentary Commentary (40 mins)
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Exams test acquisition of a clear general knowledge of the subject plus the ability to think and analyse a problem quickly, to select from and to apply both the general knowledge and detailed knowledge of aspects of the subject to new questions, problem-solving skills, adaptability, the ability to work unaided and to write clearly and concisely.

Documentary commentary exercises and examinations test knowledge and understanding of the texts set for the module. The ability to compare and contrast related source texts on a common subject. The ability to expound and criticize a textual extract lucidly, succinctly and with relevance in a relatively brief space, and, in an exam, under pressure of time.

Work submitted during the delivery of the module forms a means of determining student progress.

Submitted work tests intended knowledge and skills outcomes, develops key skills in research, reading and writing.
This module can be made available to Erasmus students only with the agreement of the Head of Subject and of the Module Leader. This option must be discussed in person at the beginning of your exchange period. No restrictions apply to study-abroad, exchange and Loyola students.
All Erasmus students at Newcastle University are expected to do the same assessment as students registered for a degree.
Study-abroad, non-Erasmus exchange and Loyola students spending semester 1 only are required to finish their assessment while in Newcastle. This will take the form of an alternative assessment, as outlined in the formats below:

Modules assessed by Coursework and Exam:
The normal alternative form of assessment for all semester 1 non-EU study abroad students will be one essay in addition to the other coursework assessment (the length of the essay should be adjusted in order to comply with the assessment tariff); to be submitted no later than 12pm Friday of week 12. The essays should be set so as to assure coverage of the course content to date.

Modules assessed by Exam only:
The normal alternative form of assessment for all semester 1 non-EU study abroad students will be two 2,000 word written exercises; to be submitted no later than 12pm Friday of week 12. The essays should be set so as to assure coverage of the course content to date.

Modules assessed by Coursework only:
All semester 1 non-EU study abroad students will be expected to complete the standard assessment for the module; to be submitted no later than 12pm Friday of week 12. The essays should be set so as to assure coverage of the course content to date.

Study-abroad, non-Erasmus exchange and Loyola students spending the whole academic year or semester 2 are required to complete the standard assessment as set out in the MOF under all circumstances.

Reading Lists