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In 1919, Douglas C. McMurtrie, Director of the Red Cross Institute for Crippled and Disabled Men, remarked that, ‘beyond reaches of history, the disabled man has been a castaway of society’.
Sometime, around the middle of the 20th century, the British began to think differently about the well-being of children. Where anxieties had once dwelt on malnourished and disease-ridden bodies, they now shifted to contemplate the civilizational consequences of young disordered minds.
This book is a welcome addition to the growing field of literature on the history of eugenics. It brings that discussion into the field of disability studies as it deconstructs how and why concerns over feeblemindedness lay at the heart of eugenics ideology.
In the late 19th century, the issue of infanticide captured the attention of a significant number of journalists, psychiatric and medical writers and social commentators. The act of intentionally killing an infant within 24 hours of its birth was by no means new to this period.
Psychoactive drug restrictions and prohibitions have typically followed a reactionary pattern. From tobacco to LSD, the introduction of novel drugs has prompted therapeutic experimentation. Officials showed little concern until these substances also became popular recreational intoxicants.
Until Irina Metzler published her first volume on medieval disability in 2006 (1), the lives of the physically impaired in the Middle Ages had received relatively little scholarly attention.
The year was 1964, and there were good reasons to feel ‘stressed out’. Presidential candidate Lyndon B. Johnson stoked American anxieties. His campaign team broadcast a television commercial that graphically illustrated the predicament of the modern world. In it, an innocent young girl plucks the petals off a daisy as she tentatively counts from one to ten.
This review was written in early June, and coincided with the anniversary of D-Day. The annual commemoration of this event, accompanied this year by new television documentaries as well as the replaying of iconic films, is yet another reminder of the important place the Second World War still occupies in British culture as well as history.
Military men, as histories of the Royal Navy in particular have shown, tend to be interested in controlling sanitary conditions. Among seamen, maintaining health was always essential otherwise ships could not remain at sea. The main theme of Dr. Katherine Foxhall’s interesting book is voyages to Australia.
From the advent of the new social history, the patient has received extensive attention from historians of medicine.