‘Disability is everywhere in history, once you begin looking for it, but conspicuously absent from the histories we write’ observed Douglas Baynton in 2001. Of course, since then historians have begun to fill this lacuna and disability history has burgeoned, especially here at Swansea University. Baynton’s argument that disability is everywhere in history carries particular resonance … More ‘Likely to conduce to the happiness and advantage of the inmates’? – Victorian Education for Deaf Children.
There is no doubt that grim tales of brutality in Victorian workhouses sell popular history books, and of course the workhouse system did generate many cases of neglect and cruelty. Most perceptions of the poor laws are defined by these incidents, but some paupers also used (and abused) the system successfully. The horrifying scandals in … More ‘Saucy Harry and his Moll’ – (Workhouse) Men Behaving Badly
Were blind children the ‘preferred figures of disability in the Victorian imagination’ as Martha Holmes argues? Depictions in art such as The Blind Girl by John Millais, 1856 (below) suggests that representations of blindness did generate widespread Victorian sentimentality and pity, which in turn led to the establishment of specialist institutions for blind children and adults. … More Victorian education for the blind: ‘cheer them in their affliction’?
Many female workhouse inmates did not conform to the popular imagining of submissive downtrodden pauper, but instead resisted and sometimes undermined the power of workhouse authorities. Contemporary representation of the inmates of poor law workhouses in the nineteenth century was that of a submissive underclass, humbled by the wretchedness of their circumstances. This perception has … More ‘A d_m cock eyed b_’ Wild Workhouse Women
In 1888, Dorcas Carr was described as ‘a woman of ill fame’ by The Cambrian newspaper. In a time when it was thought that a woman’s name should only appear in print at her birth, marriage and death, it was nevertheless her visible and recorded notoriety which allows us periodic glimpses into her life. … More A Woman of No Importance? Dorcas Carr