‘Likely to conduce to the happiness and advantage of the inmates’? – Victorian Education for Deaf Children.

Workhouse Tales

‘Disability is everywhere in history, once you begin looking for it, but conspicuously absent from the histories we write’ observed Douglas Baynton in 2001. Of course, since then historians have begun to fill this lacuna and disability history has burgeoned, especially here at Swansea University.

Baynton’s argument that disability is everywhere in history carries particular resonance for me as throughout my research into the poor laws between 1834 and 1910, I have encountered numerous allusions to disabilities. Women defined as prostitutes were  ‘diagnosed’ as feeble-minded and the possibility of ‘troublesome’ and ‘incorrigible’ workhouse inmates being admitted to a lunatic asylum was discussed. One child had been sent home from school because her teacher described her as ‘an idiot’ and a boy with epilepsy was removed from the poor law’s cottage homes as he required more attention than the home felt they could provide. Roman Catholic girls with physical or mental disabilities were…

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