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A conceptual history 1200–1900

This collection explores how concepts of intellectual or learning disability evolved from a range of influences, gradually developing from earlier and decidedly distinct concepts, including ‘idiocy’ and ‘folly’, which were themselves generated by very specific social and intellectual environments. With essays extending across legal, educational, literary, religious, philosophical, and psychiatric histories, this collection maintains a rigorous distinction between historical and contemporary concepts in demonstrating how intellectual disability and related notions were products of the prevailing social, cultural, and intellectual environments in which they took form, and themselves performed important functions within these environments. Focusing on British and European material from the middle ages to the late nineteenth century, this collection asks ‘How and why did these concepts form?’ ‘How did they connect with one another?’ and ‘What historical circumstances contributed to building these connections?’ While the emphasis is on conceptual history or a history of ideas, these essays also address the consequences of these defining forces for the people who found themselves enclosed by the shifting definitional field.

A cultural and literary history of impairment in the coal industry, 1880–1948

Coalmining was a notoriously dangerous industry and many of its workers experienced injury and disease. However, the experiences of the many disabled people within Britain’s most dangerous industry have gone largely unrecognised by historians. This book examines the British coal industry through the lens of disability, using an interdisciplinary approach to examine the lives of disabled miners and their families.

The book considers the coal industry at a time when it was one of Britain’s most important industries, and follows it through a period of growth up to the First World War, through strikes, depression and wartime, and into an era of decline. During this time, the statutory provision for disabled people changed considerably, most notably with the first programme of state compensation for workplace injury. And yet disabled people remained a constant presence in the industry as many disabled miners continued their jobs or took up ‘light work’. The burgeoning coalfields literature used images of disability on a frequent basis and disabled characters were used to represent the human toll of the industry.

A diverse range of sources are used to examine the economic, social, political and cultural impact of disability in the coal industry, looking beyond formal coal company and union records to include autobiographies, novels and oral testimony. It argues that, far from being excluded entirely from British industry, disability and disabled people were central to its development. The book will appeal to students and academics interested in disability history, disability studies, social and cultural history, and representations of disability in literature.

Physical impairment in British coalmining, 1780–1880

This book sheds new light on the human cost of industrialisation by examining the lives and experiences of those disabled in an industry that was vital to Britain's economic growth. If disability has been largely absent from conventional histories of industrialisation, the Industrial Revolution has assumed great significance in disability studies. The book examines the economic and welfare responses to disease, injury and impairment among coal workers. It discusses experiences of disability within the context of social relations and the industrial politics of coalfield communities. The book provides the context for those that follow by providing an overview of the conditions of work in British coalmining between 1780 and 1880. It turns its attention to the principal causes of disablement in the nineteenth-century coal industry and the medical responses to them. The book then extends the discussion of responses to disability by examining the welfare provisions for miners with long-term restrictive health conditions. It also examines how miners and their families negotiated a 'mixed economy' of welfare, comprising family and community support, the Poor Law, and voluntary self-help as well as employer paternalism. The book shifts attention away from medicine and welfare towards the ways in which disability affected social relations within coalfield communities. Finally, it explores the place of disability in industrial politics and how fluctuating industrial relations affected the experiences of disabled people in the coalfields.

Army, Medicine, and Modernity in WWI Germany

This book is a critical examination of the relationships between war, medicine, and the pressures of modernization in the waning stages of the German Empire. Through her examination of wartime medical and scientific innovations, government and military archives, museum and health exhibitions, philanthropic works, consumer culture and popular media, historian Heather Perry reveals how the pressures of modern industrial warfare did more than simply transform medical care for injured soldiers—they fundamentally re-shaped how Germans perceived the disabled body. As the Empire faced an ever more desperate labour shortage, military and government leaders increasingly turned to medical authorities for assistance in the re-organization of German society for total war. Thus, more than a simple history of military medicine or veteran care, Recycling the Disabled tells the story of the medicalization of modern warfare in Imperial Germany and the lasting consequences of this shift in German society.

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The social construction of feeble-mindedness in the American eugenic era

Many people are shocked upon discovering that tens of thousands of innocent persons in the United States were involuntarily sterilized, forced into institutions, and otherwise maltreated within the course of the eugenic movement (1900–30). Such social control efforts are easier to understand when we consider the variety of dehumanizing and fear-inducing rhetoric propagandists invoke to frame their potential victims. This book details the major rhetorical themes employed within the context of eugenic propaganda, drawing largely on original sources of the period. Early in the twentieth century the term “moron” was developed to describe the primary targets of eugenic control. This book demonstrates how the image of moronity in the United States was shaped by eugenicists.

This book will be of interest not only to disability and eugenic scholars and historians, but to anyone who wants to explore the means by which pejorative metaphors are utilized to support social control efforts against vulnerable community groups.

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Disabled children during the Second World War
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This book aims to bring attention to the group of disabled children and highlights their experiences during the Second World War, thereby correcting the current imbalance in the historical record. In doing this, the book discusses the policies and procedures that shaped the children's wartime experiences, and the personnel and institutions that were responsible for their welfare. It examines how the children coped on a day-to-day basis. The book first examines the five official categories of disability as defined in the 1921 Education Act. It examines the arrangements made for the evacuation of disabled children, beginning with the 'Munich Crisis' of September 1938 and including the 'main' evacuation one year later. The book then examines the experiences of those disabled children who spent their war years in a residential special school. Case studies of two residential special schools allow a comparison to be made between those established and maintained by the evacuation authorities and those run privately. The attitudes of government officials towards disabled people, including children, were ambiguous throughout the war years. The book discusses special day schools, hospital schools and training colleges, and it appears that it was with regard to the latter that negative perceptions were most evident. The postwar expansion of special schools and the position of teachers within special education are also discussed, as is the changing role of the voluntary sector in caring for disabled children.

A difficult homecoming

Shell-shocked British Army veterans in Ireland, 1918–39: A difficult homecoming tells the story of Irish veterans of the First World War who suffered from psychoneurotic ailments as a result of war service. Relying on previously untouched and newly released archival material, this monograph is a thematic analysis dedicated to the rehabilitation of mentally ill pensioners who returned to civil society and those who received institutional treatment. The unique socio-political and economic circumstances in Ireland ensures the Irish experience of post-war mental illness and disability does not reflect previous British-centric works. This case study argues that the post-war care and rehabilitation of mentally ill veterans of the Great War was dictated by unique bio-psycho, socio-economic, cultural and political concerns.

Setting the standards for disability in the interwar period.

Measuring difference, numbering normal provides a detailed study of the technological construction of disability by examining how the audiometer and spirometer were used to create numerical proxies for invisible and inarticulable experiences. Measurements, and their manipulation, have been underestimated as crucial historical forces motivating and guiding the way we think about disability. Using measurement technology as a lens, this book draws together several existing discussions on disability, healthcare, medical practice, embodiment and emerging medical and scientific technologies at the turn of the twentieth century. As such, this work connects several important and usually separate academic subject areas and historical specialisms. The standards embedded in instrumentation created strict but ultimately arbitrary thresholds of normalcy and abnormalcy. Considering these standards from a long historical perspective reveals how these dividing lines shifted when pushed. The central thesis of this book is that health measurements are given artificial authority if they are particularly amenable to calculability and easy measurement. These measurement processes were perpetuated and perfected in the interwar years in Britain as the previously invisible limits of the body were made visible and measurable. Determination to consider body processes as quantifiable was driven by the need to compensate for disability occasioned by warfare or industry. This focus thus draws attention to the biopower associated with systems, which has emerged as a central area of concern for modern healthcare in the second decade of the twenty-first century.

Attitudes, interventions, legacies

The Victorian era, encompassing the latter six decades of the nineteenth century, was a period by which significant areas of the British Isles had become industrialised and urbanised. Both processes exacerbated the extent of impairing conditions, ranging from industrial injury through the prevalence of debilitating physiological illnesses. Disability and the Victorians: attitudes, interventions, legacies brings together the work of eleven scholars and focuses on the history of disability and, while showcasing the work of a diverse gathering of historians, also gives a flavour of how disability history engages the work of scholars from other disciplines and how they, in turn, enhance historical thought and understanding. Equally, while the focus is on the Victorian era, a time during which society changed significantly, both at the bottom and from the top, it was also a time in which patterns developed that were to have an enduring influence. Therefore, a taste of that enduring influence is presented in chapters that suggest the resilience of Victorian thought and practices in the modern era. Consequently, an underlying aim is to encourage readers to take a broad view, both of ‘disability’ and of Victorian influences and values.

Professional politics and public education in Britain, 1870–1970
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Challenging the assumption that the stigma attached to mental illness stems from public ignorance and irresponsible media coverage, this book examines mental healthcare workers’ efforts to educate the public in Britain between 1870 and 1970. It covers a period which saw the polarisation of madness and sanity give way to a belief that mental health and illness formed a continuum, and in which segregative care within the asylum began to be displaced by the policy of community care. The book argues that the representations of mental illness conveyed by psychiatrists, nurses and social workers were by-products of professional aspirations, economic motivations and perceptions of the public, sensitive to shifting social and political currents. Sharing the stigma of their patients, many healthcare workers sought to enhance the prestige of psychiatry by emphasising its ability to cure acute and minor mental disorder. However, this strategy exacerbated the stigma attached to severe and enduring mental health problems. Indeed, healthcare workers occasionally fuelled the stereotype of the violent, chronically-ill male patient in an attempt to protect their own interests. Drawing on service users’ observations, the book contends that current campaigns, which conflate diverse experiences under the label mental illness, risk trivialising the difficulties facing people who live with severe and enduring mental disturbance, and fail to address the political, economic and social factors which fuel discrimination.