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Title: The forgotten children : the association of parents of backward children and the legacy of eugenics in Britain, 1946-1960
Author: Choudhury, Rubahanna A.
ISNI:       0000 0004 7230 5567
Awarding Body: Oxford Brookes University
Current Institution: Oxford Brookes University
Date of Award: 2015
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The subject of disability has received considerable attention from various academic disciplines. Similarly, the history of eugenics has been widely examined. However, the important connection between these two topics in Britain requires further analysis, particularly in the case of children with learning disabilities. This dissertation seeks to address this historiographic imbalance and to assess the effect eugenics had on British society’s attitude towards children with learning disabilities in the mid-twentieth century. The British eugenic movement highlighted the importance of individual and collective mental and physical health. However, individuals who did not conform to this standard were alleged to be contributing to the decline of the nation. Not surprisingly, within this framework, those with learning disabilities became the subject of much public and scientific debate. Yet, eugenic measures, such as compulsory sterilisation and permanent segregation, were never legalised in the UK. Despite this, eugenic ideas of stigma were used to exclude individuals with learning disabilities from the full benefits of society. These ideas remained heavily ingrained in the public consciousness long after the supposed end of eugenics. In the late 1940s, Judy Fryd, the mother of a supposed ‘backward’ child from Hertfordshire, tired of her isolated life, penned a letter asking if others felt the same way; the response she received from members of the public was overwhelming. Soon after, the Association of Parents of Backward Children (APBC) was formed and helped to combat the deep-seated eugenic attitudes in the political and public spheres. In the main, this dissertation evaluates the APBC and its activities, relating to the social isolation and the result of stigma; the process of institutionalisation and the lack of alternative, the lack of adequate research into ‘mental deficiency’; and finally, the inherent inequality of the British education system during the 1940s and early 1950s. Ultimately, this dissertation argues that the legacy of the eugenic movement continued to shape the public perception of disability after 1945, and that the political and social transformations needed to sustain change in the field of disability began, in fact, decades prior to the emergence of the British disability movement of the late twentieth century.
Supervisor: Turda, Marius ; Crook, Tom Sponsor: Berendel Foundation, London ; Centre for Medicine, Health and Society, Oxford Brookes University
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral