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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.

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Shifting the economic development agenda

their relationship with other places as much as their internal characteristics.19 The space economy of eighteenth-century England was thus marked by growing uniformity of character within regions and increasing fragmentation between them. Regions were much more than ‘convenient box[es] into which masses of descriptive material is stuffed’.20 They represented the spatial and functional scale at which many aspects of life operated in pre- and early-industrial England: they were the reality for most people and businesses.21 If regions command our attention because they

in The first industrial region

there through the creation of pools of skilled labour, the concentration of information flows and the agglomeration of subsidiary trades. Conversely, economically marginal areas experienced a downward spiral as labour, capital, innovation and entrepreneurship shifted into more dynamic localities.46 The space economy is thus divided into core and peripheral areas which are functionally, spatially and hierarchically related to one another. For Krugman, though, cumulative causation involves secondary causal factors. They merely reinforce initial localisations which, he

in The first industrial region
Fashioning a journeyer identity

identity within the journey abroad. The journey chronicler was the new identity most frequently adopted by women. The chronicler evoked the journey abroad experientially, in varying degrees of detail, through a discourse of journey routine and functionality, a discourse that has been partly already explored in Chapters 4 and 5. Women’s adoption of this role re-emphasizes that they did not undertake their journeys passively: they actively consumed them and recorded the nature of their experience in full, both creating a permanent personal memorial to it and informing any

in Women, travel and identity

specifically for middle-­class customers, restaurants and dancing. They were larger and grander than town pubs and employed fashionable architectural styling.14 They were sometimes called roadhouses, but this term will not be used here so as to differentiate them from their larger, Americanised brethren that were the subject of Chapter 7 of this book. Drinking and driving was a normalised behaviour in 1930s Britain as long as it wasn’t taken to extremes. A motor-­ trip to the coast would be accompanied by a drink at an arterial road pub, or an evening drink would be

in The experience of suburban modernity
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and imperialism. The intent, then , was to use historical stories to produce loyal and obedient citizens, proud of their nation and its history, keen to contribute to its continued wellbeing and actively aware of the requirements and rewards of citizenship. In her Millennium Lecture, Linda Colley differentiated between citizenship (‘which is political and functional’) and identity (‘which is more

in Citizenship, Nation, Empire
Colonial transformations and a governmental event

differentiated colonialisms within a diffuse but cohesive empire, and also to disaggregate each nation or colony by remaining alert to the distinct spaces that comprised the larger polity or territory. Just as Lagos was distinct from Bornu, the Ormiston River was not Melbourne. The production and expropriation of value, after all, was historically contingent and thus necessarily differed markedly across space and time. This book traces this heterogeneity through a study of indirect rule, placing a differentiated empire within a unified field of analysis. It

in Governing natives

of society. There was in his argument a proliferation of analogies between the necessary complexity of the social organisation of medicine and the ultimate evolutionary organisation of the nervous system. Drawing through analogy on Herbert Spencer’s (1820–1903) theories of cultural and social evolution, Jackson argued that the division of labour was a ‘universal law’.21 He was therefore able to join differentiation, complexity, progressing evolution, definiteness, and integration in the nervous system of organisms – all Spencerian concepts – with views that

in The neurologists
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Semantics of intellectual disability

characteristics, while deafness, muteness and mental disability were excluded from the category ‘defect’.9 Note the emphasis on physical condition as defect, and further note that (most) mental disabilities have no physical, visible markers – Down syndrome being the obvious exception to ratify the rule. The problem with this analysis is that, as so often, the modern historian conflates mental disability with mental illness, so that the term ‘mental disability’ might more accurately be rendered ‘psychiatric disorder which functionally renders the affected person disabled

in Fools and idiots?
Mark Abrams, subjective social indicators and the post-war explosion of ‘middle-opinion’

Tory.37 This quote illustrates the extent to which the search for subjective social indicators had been propped up by the intellectual conviction that modern opinion polls had to be reconfigured to take greater account of the functional role of personal opinion: the ways in which opinions can bolster personal identity and express personal values.38 Abrams’ concern, which he would retrospectively justify after the rise of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), was that functional ‘higher’ purposes were beginning to plaster over increasingly ‘acquisitive’ behaviour.39

in Scientific governance in Britain, 1914–79