The experience and representation of disability in nineteenth-century Scotland
This is a study of the experience and representation of disability in nineteenth-century Scotland. The thesis employs a broad working definition of disability, derived from our modern experience, to include mental, sensory and physical disabilities, and encapsulating circumstances such as congenital impairment, industrial and work-related injuries, and illnesses that caused both permanent and long-term conditions that we would today term as disabling. The thesis considers the way in which disability was perceived in culture and by the civil and voluntary institutions of the period, examining the difference from contemporary perceptions. In this way, the study focuses on language and disability, and the complex and fluid way in which people with disabilities were categorised in nineteenth-century Scotland. The thesis then considers representation and experience under a series of themes: Literary encounters with people with disabilities, life in the community, a home from home (on custodial institutions), people with disabilities in a 'productive society', and personal relationships. The thesis looks closely at the experience of disabilities. To obtain first-hand accounts has been difficult, and some have had to be reconstructed from other 'voices', such as those of surgeons, physicians, police officers, and asylum managers. Yet, a number of important and previously unknown sources have been utilised, including manuscript letters. The sources used range in origin and type. The work uses close study of Poor Law records, criminal court cases, precognitions, hospital and asylum records, memoirs and autobiographies. Manuscript sources from Shetland to Galloway have been interrogated for references to people with disabilities. The study is a first attempt in a field that is largely undeveloped. It is a study that is firmly based in evidence, seeking to provide a solid and extensive empirical groundwork of disability experience and representation upon which further work in concept and theory may be constructed.