Disability in the Industrial Revolution

Physical impairment in British coalmining, 1780–1880

By David M. Turner and Daniel Blackie

Disability in the Industrial Revolution


  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-1815-8
  • Pages: 240
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £25.00
  • Published Date: April 2018
  • BIC Category: Society & social sciences / Disability: social aspects, HISTORY / Europe / Great Britain, HISTORY / General, Medicine / History of medicine, Society & social sciences / Sociology: work & labour, Humanities / British & Irish history, History
  • Series: Disability History


An electronic version of this book is also available under a Creative Commons (CC-BY-NC-ND) license, thanks to the support of the Wellcome Trust.

The Industrial Revolution produced injury, illness and disablement on a large scale and nowhere was this more visible than in coalmining. Disability in the Industrial Revolution 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. Although it is commonly assumed that industrialisation led to increasing marginalisation of people with impairments from the workforce, disabled mineworkers were expected to return to work wherever possible, and new medical services developed to assist in this endeavour. This book explores the working lives of disabled miners and analyses the medical, welfare and community responses to disablement in the coalfields. It shows how disability affected industrial relations and shaped the class identity of mineworkers. The book will appeal to students and academics interested in disability, occupational health and social history.


'This is an interesting and ambitious book that should appeal to a wide range of readers . The authors pose important questions about disability history and arrive at several surprisingly controversial conclusions.'
Pamela L. Dale, University of Exeter, H-Net October 2018

'Ultimately, Disability in the Industrial Revolution provides further evidence to expose the fallacy regarding the perceived lack of surviving sources to enable a study of disability as a historical topic. Indeed, despite the mammoth historiography dedicated to the histories of labour and the industrial revolution in Britain, disability had been hitherto overlooked. With its study of disability and British coalmining from 1780 to 1880, and its argument that 'disability was essential to the Industrial Revolution' (200), Turner and Blackie's work succeeds in demonstrating both the potential and necessity to now centre disability during other critical events and periods in history. This legacy remains the book's greatest achievement.'
Michael Robinson, Liverpool University, Disability and Society Review, January 2019


1. Disability and work in the coal economy
2. Medicine and the miner's body
3. Disability and welfare
4. Disability, family and community
5. The industrial politics of disablement
Select bibliography


David M. Turner is Professor of History at Swansea University

Daniel Blackie is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the History of Science and Ideas at the University of Oulu, Finland

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