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7 - The Health of the Nation

Class, Race, Gender and Disability in Imperial Britain

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 July 2022

Esme Cleall
Affiliation:
University of Sheffield
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Summary

This is a chapter about the public articulation of disability in terms of concerns about the British nation. From sensory impairment, to stature, to intellect, from the end of the nineteenth century, disability became an issue relevant not only to the lives of the disabled, and those who cared for them, but to everyone. It became not only a national issue but also an imperial concern. Ultimately, I argue that these reconfigurations tie in with similar shifts that were occurring around attitudes towards race and class. In the later nineteenth century rapid imperial expansion, not least the ‘Scramble for Africa’, provided an additional backdrop against which attitudes towards race regrouped. Another important movement was the rise of thinking about ‘degeneration’ and eugenics. What I argue here is that some of these concerns not only applied to disability, as well, but coalesced around the same issues. ‘Feeble-mindedness’, for example, a category ostensibly about intellectual and cognitive impairment, became a key issue which spoke to issues of race ‘hygiene’ and class concerns. The valorisation of the strong, masculine, white, non-disabled, young adult body, in this period became increasingly linked with heredity and therefore became a matter of public concern.

Type
Chapter
Information
Colonising Disability
Impairment and Otherness Across Britain and Its Empire, c. 1800–1914
, pp. 215 - 245
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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  • The Health of the Nation
  • Esme Cleall, University of Sheffield
  • Book: Colonising Disability
  • Online publication: 21 July 2022
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108983266.008
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  • The Health of the Nation
  • Esme Cleall, University of Sheffield
  • Book: Colonising Disability
  • Online publication: 21 July 2022
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108983266.008
Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • The Health of the Nation
  • Esme Cleall, University of Sheffield
  • Book: Colonising Disability
  • Online publication: 21 July 2022
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108983266.008
Available formats
×