Nineteenth-Century Disability:  Cultures & Contexts


“Places” is a fascinating topic for thinking about disability in the nineteenth century, since it brings together both the institutions most often associated with disability in the nineteenth century, such as schools for the deaf and blind or insane asylums, as well as the spas and resort towns that catered to self-professed invalids.  Juxtaposing two places like the Earlswood Asylum, the first asylum for the cognitively disabled, and Ben Rhydding, an expensive hydrotherapy establishment where clients like Jane Welsh Carlyle took the water cure, gives a broader idea of the places for disability in the nineteenth century. Indeed, one place that has been emerging with recent contributions that focus on itinerant people with disabilities is “the streets”. Disability, this topic suggests, was not just hidden away in Foucauldian asylums dedicated to the cure and treatment of physical and cognitive difference, but found many niches in nineteenth century society.