CODI: Cornucopia of Disability Information

History of Disabilities and Social Problems




The following bibliography represents the results of an extensive library
search undertaken in 1987-1988 as part of my research on the history of
disabilities and special education.

I began the search in Canada at the libraries of the Ontario Institute for
Studies in Education and the University of Toronto. In September 1987 I was
fortunate to be able to come to France on a post-doctoral fellowship from the
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada which enabled me to
further develop the bibliography using European sources. In France I made
extensive use of the library of the Institut National de Recherche
Pedagogique (INRP), the documentation services of the Centre Technique
National d'Etudes et de Recherches sur les Handicaps et les Inadaptations
(CTNERHI) and the Comite National Francais de Liaison pour la Readaptation
des Handicapes (CNFRLH), and the library of the Maison des Sciences de
l'Homme. In England, I used materials from the Wellcome Institute for the
History of Medicine, the Royal National Institute for the Deaf (RNID), the
Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation (RADAR), and the British
Library. Upon returning to Canada in the autumn of 1988, I extensively
expanded the bibliography using computer searches of the libraries of
University of Toronto and York University, the National Library of Canada,
and the Library of Congress computer files accessed through Ryerson
Polytechnical Institute.

A number of individuals at CTNERHI contributed to my research by assisting me
in various ways to find sources on the history of disability and special
education. Foremost in this regard was Henri Paicheler, who generously gave
me copies of his extensive personal collection of materials on disability. As
well, Catherine Barral- Reiner and Jacqueline Spinga were very helpful in
loaning me materials and suggesting further bibliographic sources and
personal contacts, and both Jesus Sanchez and Jean-Sebastian Morvan took time
to explain their work to me.

Other people in France who freely offered assistance along the way, and
therefore contributed to this work were: Mme. C. Elkaim of the Institut
National de Recherche Pedagogique (INRP), Jacques Sagot and Elizabeth Zucman
of the Centre National d'Etudes et de Formation pour l'Enfance Inadaptee
(CNEFEI), Evelyne Burguiere, Sylvie Rayna, and Michelle Proux of the Centre
de Recherche de l'Education Specialisee et de l'Adaptation Scolaire (CRESAS),
Louis Avan and Zina Weygand of the Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers
(CNAM), Marie-Rene Aufauvre of the Comite National Francais de Liaison pour
la Readaptation des Handicapes (CNFRLH), Andre Michelet and Gillian Henri at
the Centre d'Etudes Roland Houdan, Henri- Jacques Stiker of the Ligue pour
l'Adaptation du Diminue Ohysique au Travail (LADAPT), Philippe St. Martin of
the Groupement pour l'Insertion des Handicapes Physiques (GIHP), Dominique
Velche of the Syndicat National des Associations de Parents d'Enfants
Inadaptes (SNAPEI), Marie Le Normand of the Institut National de la Sante et
de la Recherche Medicale (INSERM), Pierre Boiral of COOP Recherche, Kathleen
Kelly of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD),
Maitland Stobbart and Georges Moulin at the Council of Europe, and Barbara
Swanekamp and Simone Landrien of the community of L'ARCHE.

Individuals who directly assisted my research in England were John Deith of
the Royal Association in Aid of the Deaf (RAD), Bert Massie of the Royal
Association for Disability and Rehabilitation (RADAR), Barry Edginton at the
University of York, Ann Barrett, her staff and the members of the National
Deaf-Blind Helpers League, Anita Loring of the International Cerebral Palsy
Association, Chris Hince from the Rehabilitation Resource Centre at City
University, Graham Hicks of the National Deaf-Blind and Rubella Association,
and David Ellis of Queen Elizabeth's Foundation for the Disabled. In
addition, a large number of people throughout Europe, too numerous to list
here, answered my requests for information and often sent materials on
disability and special education in their various countries. I thank each of
them, and look forward to personally meeting many of them in the near future.

In Toronto, backup support for my year in France was provided by Judy
Bernhard at Ryerson Polytechnical Institute and Iain Davidson at the Ontario
Institute for Studies in Education. Finally, I would like to thank my wife,
Karen Anderson for her constant support and assistance to my research.



The preparation of this thematic French-English bibliography on the
history of disabilities and social problems has enabled me to aquire an
overview of this broad and somewhat disjointed field of study. While I
initially set out to research the history of disabilities in Europe, the
project expanded when I came to realize that the histories of all the various
groups which have been different from the norms of society were similar and
linked together, and that these histories were not confined to one
geographical area over the period for which we have written historical
records. The bibliography records most of the references I found in English
and in French during an 18 month search of libraries in Canada, France and
England on the subject of the history of disability and social problems.

The choice of references for any bibliography is necessarily arbitary,
and reflects the biases and decisions of the compiler as to what is important
and what is not. In general, there are two types of material in this
bibliography on the history of disabilities and social problems. Most of the
references up to 1945 are not histories per se, but are documents from which
various histories can be written in that they are important milestones in the
written record of these areas. I was especially interested in finding the
earliest documents on each topic, which means that only a small selection of
later works in a particular area is included. In contrast, references after
1945 are histories of disabilities and/or social problems; books and articles
which review particular aspects of the study of disability, disabled persons,
social problems, or relevant professions from a historical perspective.
Finally, because this is a bibliography of social history, most strictly
medical and physiological articles and books from the past are not included.
While the bibliography is extensive, it in no way is exhaustive.
Therefore, the user of the bibliography must still search out the local
archive, the local biographies, and the local perspective in working on the
history of a particular institution, or a particular person or group of
people. Nevertheless, it is my hope that this bibliography will be a useful
starting point for researchers in this field, particularly non-historians who
want to add a historical perspective to their work. As well, even the
experienced historian of this field might find some surprises in the works
listed, for one of my other purposes in compiling this document was to bring
both English and French sources together. While there is much work being done
by researchers in both English speaking countries and French speaking
countries, there is often a lack of communication at the professional level
between these two groups. There are, of course, many interesting sources of
information and incisive articles on the history of disability and deviance
written in languages other than French and English, but the production of the
bibliography was circumscribed by my own language limitations. The best
single source of information on the history of disability and deviance, to my
knowledge, is the library of the Wellcome Institute for the History of
Medicine in London, England, and it is there that I would refer anyone
wanting a comprehensive listing of works in this field in most of the major
languages of the world.

The bibliography contains references to two types of documents - those
which are historically important in marking the signposts, the shifts and the
ruptures in the history of disability and social problems, and those which
are analyses of this history. The bibliography is divided into 1) general
documents which apply to several types of disabilities or social problems, 2)
references which apply to the history of a specifc type of disability or
deviance, and 3) works on the history of various societal responses to
disabilities and social problems, including the emergence of various
professional groups.

A scanning of the titles in the bibliography reveals three broad themes
under which many sub-themes can be subsumed. One relevant theme discussed in
many of the writings listed in the bibliography is the meaning of disability
and social problems and how these meanings are portrayed in representations
in society. A second theme found in many of the books and articles listed,
particularly the older ones, chronicles an evolution of methods, techniques
and technologies for teaching and communicating with people with specific
needs. Finally, a third theme, offering a much more critical perspective, is
to be found in many of the more recent analyses of the relationships between
professional, social and economic interests and the situation of various
groups who are judged to be different from the "norm".


Theme I - The Meaning of Difference

At the most fundamental level the history of disability and deviance
deals with the meaning of being different, of "standing out", of being seen
as not normal. This history of the "Other" examines the construction of the
"norm", and the "normal" against which is measured the "abnormal" or the
"pathological". It examines, as well, the construction of the specific
categories of differentness themselves. In this area, Canguilhem's (1966)
seminal book "Le Normal et le pathologique" has influenced social researchers
in France but is not well known in the English speaking world. Much better
known is the work of Michel Foucault, whose histories of madness, the medical
clinic and the prison have aroused passions and arguments on both sides of
the Atlantic and which has spawned many new studies, particularly in the
history of psychiatry.

The insane person and the feral child both can be considered as
"evocative objects", since they raise the issue of the boundaries between
reason and unreason, and between human and non-human. Perhaps this explains
why the greatest amount of work in the history of disabilities and social
problems has been in the area of treatment of madness, the growth of asylums
and the role of various professional groups, especially medical doctors and

Parallel to this institutional history are works which discuss the
representation in art, literature and, in more recent times, photography of
the person judged to be different. By examining these images we can trace the
changes in the signification of disability and deviance, as well as document
the different social treatment of marginal people in various periods of
history. Related to these changes are the different words used during
specific periods to refer to people who are outside the norms of society, and
the use of language as a tool for the development of professional power.

Although there is a small number of articles on the religious meaning of
disability and deviance, this area has been left relatively unexplored. This
is in spite of the fact that religion has been a major factor in defining the
meaning of disability and differentness, and that until recently churches and
religious orders provided much of the care which was available to a needy
person in society. The history of the theological relationships between sin
and charity, rejection and acceptance as they apply to disabled and
marginalized persons needs to be examined, as does the history of the decline
of the role of the church as disabilities and deviance became


Theme II - Evolution of Techniques

For some, the history of disability and social problems is one of great
progress. It can be pointed out that in antiquity difformed babies were
"exposed" to the elements to die, or that up until this century, crimes which
are now judged to be "petty" could result in severe punishment or death for
the offender. Many of the older histories of specific disabilities are
narratives of discoveries and innovation, told in a way that implies that all
difficulties can be overcome, and that everything will work out in the end.
Perhaps the best examples of this genre are the various books on the
"miracle" of Helen Keller, and other disabled people who reached a high level
of achievement.

But the history of innovations is not one of smooth progress or is it
without controversy. While disabled infants are not left outside to die, the
issue of euthanasia and disabled people has remained a subject of debate. As
well, witness the controversy between Samuel Heinecke and Charles Michael,
the Abbe de l'Epee, over the best method of communication for deaf persons.
While the Abbe won the battle, the arguments over oral methods versus sign
language for teaching deaf children continue up to the present day.
Similarly, the story of Braille is one of struggles between advocates of
various systems of embossed letters. One needs to be reminded that such
"innovations" as instutionalization of deviant groups into large asylums, the
sterilization of mentally retarded persons, and phrenology each had its
supporters who were convinced that progress was being made. Even the
development of special education can be seen as both a positive innovation
and an administrative strategy to exclude those who were not wanted by
teachers of regular classes.

I do not mean to imply here that there have not been any positive
changes for disabled people, only that all changes should not be seen as
progress. Progress is a concept which is relative to the values of a
particular age and society. For example, in terms of the dominant values of
Western society, most of us would judge an increase in the "human rights" and
inclusion of a person who, in the past, has been excluded from participation
in everyday community life to be a progressive step. Yet even this statement
is not a simple one; it reveals a particular position of the person who holds
it and a view of the person who is still "Other" but who now dwells among us.
For disabled and deviant people have become the objects of various
professional, social and economic interests, which compete for the power to
define the needs and the rights of people who are outside of the norm.


Theme III - Professional, Social and Economic Interests

The person who is seen as "Other" has always been considered as a
problem in organized societies because differentness confronts those who
conform to the norm. For a "normal" person an encounter with a disabled
person can result in anxiety. Seeing differentness causes one to either
examine oneself in the light of the difference or to reject the different
person as being too disturbing. The marginal person raises questions having
to do with mortality, contingency, and the foundations of social life.
Whether worshiped as a semi-deity or cast-out as unwanted, the marginal
person is seldom allowed to just "be there".

This is why most people in society prefer to have their encounters with
disturbing elements controlled and managed through the services of a group of
experts - politicians, witch-doctors, physicians or psychologists. The
professional expert is someone who calms anxiety by projecting an image of
competence, and in the case of our present society, by projecting an image of
scientific grounding. The major tools of the professional expert are the
examination and the prescription.

The examination of the different person (or a potentially different
person) has been with us since antiquity. The Babylonians had their science
of monstrology and examined abnormal fetuses for signs of the future. The
Spartans sent their new-born children to be seen by a council of elders, who
decided whether the child should live or die. The Greeks and the Romans
developed codified laws by which one could be judged. The development of
medicine brought with it the "medical gaze". The Christian church employed
the Inquisition and witch-hunts to find out who was not a true believer. The
science of psychology developed mass testing to discover both genius and
unsuitability for the army. The school system tests almost everything and
fails those who did not meet its standards. The history of disability and
deviance is above all the history of examination by experts.

The history of disability and deviance is also the history of
prescriptions and of the ability to prescribe. Various groups have held power
over the lives of disabled and deviant people and the struggles between
various interests to be able to define and prescribe for the needs of people
is part of our history. Legislation, treatments, drugs, devices,
institutions, punishments, and pedagogies have all been devised by
professional groups over the years, usually without consultation with those
receiving the prescriptions.

The marginal person has usually not prospered in society and the history
of disability and deviance is also one of poverty, although the poor in
general are neither disabled nor deviant. The economy of disability and
differentness needs a thorough examination from a historical perspective. In
particular, it has been argued that certain professional groups, especially
doctors, psychiatrists, social scientists, special educators and social
workers have prospered because of the increased recognition of deviant groups
and from the production of new types and more broadly defined disabilities.
The histories of social control, charities, the emergence of "helping"
professions, and the development of public welfare provisions in relationship
to deviant or disabled people are themes in the most recent articles and

This literature tends to take a critical perspective on the past, and
often reflects the themes of the power of professionals, the state and
economic interests in the social construction of difference. Countering this
power, which is often portrayed as negative, are the histories of resistance
movements, "consumer" groups, and advocacy groups and associations, usually
seen as positive. In these studies, power is not seen as a simple one-way
force but as a complex web of relationships.

Much work needs to be done in sorting out these various relationships of
power, both relationships in the past and in the future, as well as the
furthering of understanding of the meaning of disability and difference, and
the analysis of practices in this field. It is hoped that this bibliography
will contribute to that effort.


Gary Woodill, Ed.D.
Telephone: (416) 979-5306
School of Early Childhood Education
Ryerson Polytechnical Institute
350 Victoria Street Toronto,
Ontario, Canada M5B 2K3