Review of: Broadmoor: A History of Criminal Lunacy and Its Problems. By Ralph Partridge. (Pp. 278; illustrated. 21s.) London: Chatto and Windus. 1953.
British Medical Journal, May 15 954, p. 1136
"On May 15, 1800, a man named James Hadfield was arrested after firing a pistol at King George III in the Royal Box at Drury Lane Theatre. The bullet narrowly missed its mark, as the King happened to be bowing his head at the time to the audience." At his trial it was revealed that the prisoner thought he was acting on the direct instructions of God, who had commanded him to save the world by sacrificing his own life. Suicide being too wicked, he hoped to be executed, but his wish to be hanged, drawn, and quartered was not to be gratified. Within a month of his trial the Criminal Lunatics Act of 1800 was passed, under which persons acquitted on grounds of insanity or found insane on arraignment could be ordered to be detained " until His Majesty's Pleasure be known."
So begins Mr. Partridge's fascinating story. After discussions in the first chapters on insanity from the legal and the medical point of view, Chapter III begins the history of Broadmoor from its founding in 1856 down to a full account of its organization at the present day. The history of the institution is to a large extent a history of its successive medical superintendents, with their varying inclinations to liberalism or rigour. At the beginning, as the author remarks, greater reliance was placed on the science of engineering than on the science of medicine; if one could not try to cure the patients, one could try to keep them inside. Nevertheless, escapes were quite frequent in the earlier days, and have continued on rare occasions until now. The commonest means of leaving the hospital -as it became in 1941- had, up to that date, been by transfer to other mental institutions and by death. However, it is noteworthy that about a quarter of the patients admitted either have been discharged recovered or have recovered and been sent back to prison. One must hope that the next 5,000 patients dealt with will show a considerable improvement on these figures.
Some of the improvements made in the organization during the superintendency of Dr. Hopwood, who retired in 1952, are of interest. He succeeded in introducing parole, despite the misgivings not only of authorities but even of his own staff; needless to say, the parole system has amply justified itself. Doors, within the hospital also began to be flung open, so that trusted patients could pass freely from one part to another. Social occasions were begun, at which the sexes were allowed to mix: women number about a quarter of the total, which must be a higher figure than in sane prisoners. Other amenities have been added, bowling greens, away matches for the cricket team, and the famous dramatic society of patients, "The Broadhumorists." It was owing to Hopwood that Broadmoor came to be recognized as a mental hospital, that turnkeys passed away and even attendants became nurses, that patients wear sports coats and flannel trousers and clean-shaven faces. The era of wise humanitarianism had done its best.