Social Histories of Disability and Deformity

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Collecting together essays written by an international set of contributors, this book provides an important contribution to the emerging field of disability history. It explores changes in understandings of deformity and disability between the sixteenth and twentieth centuries, and reveal the ways in which different societies have conceptualised the normal and the pathological. Through a variety of case studies including: early modern birth defects, homosexuality, smallpox scarring, vaccination, orthopaedics, deaf education, eugenics, mental deficiency, and the experiences of psychologically scarred military veterans, this book provides new perspectives on the history of physical, sensory and intellectual anomaly. Examining changes over five centuries, it charts how disability was delineated from other forms of deformity and disfigurement by a clearer medical perspective. Essays shed light on the experiences of oppressed minorities often hidden from mainstream history, but also demonstrate the importance of discourses of disability and deformity as key cultural signifiers which disclose broader systems of power and authority, citizenship and exclusion. The diverse nature of the material in this book will make it relevant to scholars interested in cultural, literary, social and political, as well as medical, history.