Mental Health and the Georgian World: The ‘Madness’ of George III

Date(s) - 05/11/2019
6:45 pm - 8:30 pm

Bush House Lecture Theatre 1 Bush House

Mark Gatiss in the Nottingham Playhouse production of The Madness of George III. (c) Nottingham Playhouse. Photo: Manuel Harlan

This panel discussion focused on a theme which both has great contemporary relevance in our own day as we begin to discuss mental health issues with a new openness. It is also one on which the Georgian Papers Programme sheds important new light as it makes available in many cases for the first time papers relating to George III’s illness, one of the best documented cases of mental illness from the age of the enlightenment and one familiar to many through the film and productions of Alan Bennett’s The Madness of George III.

How can we put George III’s illness at the service of new understandings of the history of mental illness and is treatment and emerging contemporary efforts to address mental illness as we do physical and with greater understanding? How should we understand George’s illness and Georgian approaches to mental health more generally? How do we represent them today? To discuss these issues we assembled a remarkable panel bringing together perspectives from the archives, from the modern medical profession, from historians working on related issues, and from the actor who most recently took on the challenge of embodying – or should that be ‘enminding’? – George’s illness in the acclaimed Nottingham Playhouse production of Bennett’s play seen across the world via NTLive.

Watch the discussion here.

Panel members:

Michael Brown Reader in History, Roehampton University, and author of Performing Medicine (2011)

Mark Gatiss actor and writer, who portrayed George III in The Madness of George III at Nottingham Playhouse in 2018

Adam Penford artistic director of Nottingham Playhouse, and the director of the Nottingham Playhouse’s award-winning production of The Madness of George III. Adam previously worked with the National Theatre and is associated with many other important productions.

Barbara Taylor Professor of Humanities at Queen Mary University of London and author of The Last Asylum (2014)

Sir Simon Wessely Professor of Psychological Medicine at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King’s College London and President of the Royal Society of Medicine.


Arthur Burns academic director, Georgian Papers Programme, and professor of Modern British History at King’s College London

Karin Wulf academic director, Georgian Papers Programme and executive director of the Omohundro Institute for Early American History and Culture and professor of history at William & Mary, USA

With thanks to Nottingham Playhouse, NTLive!, the Royal Collection Trust, the speakers, King’s College London, especially the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, the Omohundro Institute for Early American History and Culture and William & Mary for support in making this evening possible.

Extract from the NTLive! broadcast of the Nottingham Playhouse production of Alan Bennett’s The Madness of George III by kind permission of NTLive and Nottingham Playhouse. This extract from ‘The Madness of King George III’ by Alan Bennett (© Forelake Ltd) is used by permission of United Agents ( on behalf of Forelake Ltd.