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Introduction
The emergent critical history of intellectual disability
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Intellectual disability is an unstable concept, and its fundamental instability is magnified when we track its history and relation to other concepts. This introductory chapter explores some of the challenges of investigating the forces shaping the concept of intellectual disability in Europe and Britain across the centuries: not only those generated by shifting language and terminology, but also the demands imposed by the interdisciplinary nature of this project, which takes us through histories of literature, religion, law, education, philosophy, psychology and medicine, in addition to engaging with cultural and social history. Further, the fundamental slipperiness of the idea of intellectual disability raises the question of whether it could even be said to exist in forms similar to that which it assumes today. This introduction also includes a review of literature exploring the history of intellectual disability, and an overview of the chapters to follow.

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Intellectual disability

A conceptual history 1200–1900

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