Disability and the Victorians

Attitudes, interventions, legacies

Edited by Iain Hutchison, Martin Atherton and Jaipreet Virdi

Disability and the Victorians


  • eBook
  • Hardcover

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-6392-9
  • Pages: 216
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £20.00
  • Published Date: July 2022
  • BIC Category: Social & cultural history, SOCIAL SCIENCE / People with Disabilities, MEDICAL / History, HISTORY / Europe / Great Britain / Victorian Era (1837-1901), Medicine / History of medicine, C 1800 To C 1900, Society & social sciences / Disability: social aspects, Humanities / Social & cultural history, Modern History, History, History of Medicine
  • Series: Disability History


Disability and the Victorians brings together in one collection a range of topics, perspectives and experiences from the Victorian era that present a unique overview of the development and impact of attitudes and interventions towards those with impairments during this time. The collection also considers how the legacies of these actions can be seen to have continued throughout the twentieth century right up to the present day. Subjects addressed include deafness, blindness, language delay, substance dependency, imperialism and the representation of disabled characters in popular fiction. These varied topics illustrate how common themes can be found in how Victorian philanthropists and administrators responded to those under their care. Often character, morality and the chance to be restored to productivity and usefulness overrode medical need and this both influenced and reflected wider societal views of impairment and inability.


'Disability and the Victorians: Attitudes, Interventions, Legacies is a very timely work. In the midst of a global pandemic that has left many people newly impaired, there is an increased need for scholarship that provides frameworks for coming to terms with disability as a sociocultural phenomenon and a lived identity. [...] Disability and the Victorians makes an important contribution to the history of medicine and attitudes toward disability in Victorian Britain and beyond and provides a useful resource for scholars of nineteenth-century Britain.'
Joyce L. Huff, Journal of British Studies


Foreword - Karen Sayer
Introduction - Iain Hutchison, Martin Atherton and Jaipreet Virdi

Part I: Attitudes
1 Restoration to usefulness: Victorian middle-class attitudes towards the healthcare of the working poor - Amy W Farnbach Pearson
2 Imperial lives - confronting the legacies of empire, disability and the Victorians - Esme Cleall
3 Disabling the author in Mid-Victorian realist fiction: case studies of George Eliot and Harriet Martineau - Deborah M Fratz

Part II: Interventions
4 Medicalising deafness in Victorian London: the Royal Ear Hospital, 1816-1916 - Jaipreet Virdi
5 Drunkenness, degeneration, and disability in England - Joanne Woiak
6 Victorian medical awareness of childhood language disabilities - Paula Hellal and Marjorie Lorch
7 'Happiness and usefulness increased": Consuming ability in the antebellum artificial limb market - Caroline Lieffers

Part III: Legacies
8 The disabled child in an industrial metropolis: Glasgow's children's hospital, Scottish convalescent homes 'in the country', and east park home for infirm children - Iain Hutchison
9 The panopticon: Towards an intimate history of special schools for the blind - Fred Reid
10 Allowed to be idle: Perpetuating Victorian attitudes to deafness and employability in United Kingdom social policy - Martin Atherton


Iain Hutchison is Research Affiliate in Economic & Social History at the University of Glasgow

Martin Atherton is Retired Course Leader for British Sign Language and Deaf Studies at the University of Central Lancashire

Jaipreet Virdi is Assistant Professor in History at the University of Delaware

Disability and the Victorians

Edited by Iain Hutchison, Martin Atherton, Jaipreet Virdi

Paperback £20.00 / $29.95

Hardcover £85.00 / $130.00

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