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Disability and Crime in Eighteenth-Century England: Physical Impairment at the Old Bailey

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Abstract:

Despite recent interest in disability history, the period before 1800 remains relatively neglected by historians. This article uses criminal court records, an under-exploited source for historians of disability, in order to examine the meanings of impairment in eighteenth-century London. It discusses disabled people as perpetrators and victims of crime, and examines representations of impairment in their testimonies. Meanings of impairment were not fixed and could be drawn upon strategically in stories told to the court. While disabled people often faced mistrust, trials also provided a space for them to present their own experiences and argue disability in a public forum.

Keywords: CRIME; DISABILITY; IDENTITY; LONDON; OLD BAILEY

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2752/147800412X13191165982953

Affiliations: Swansea University

Publication date: March 1, 2012

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