Footnotes: "Children Who Disappeared in Britain"

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by Deborah Cohen

1 In this piece, I use - both for the purposes of quotation and to convey changing sensibilities - terminology of the time about learning difficulties that we today deplore. “Idiot,” “imbecile,” and “feeble-minded” generally marked a sliding scale of disability, with idiot indicating the worst-off, and the feeble-minded a higher-grade intellect. See P. Martin Duncan and William Millard, A Manual for the Classification, Training and Education of the Feeble-Minded, Imbecile, and Idiotic (London, 1866). On mental disability more broadly, see especially David Wright, Mental Disability in Victorian England (Oxford, 2001); Mathew Thomson, The Problem of Mental Deficiency: Eugenics, Democracy, and Social Policy in Britain, c. 1870-1959 (Oxford, 1998); Dorothy Atkinson et al., Forgotten Lives: Exploring the History of Learning Disability (Kidderminster, 1997); Dorothy Atkinson et al., Good Times, Bad Times: Women with Learning Difficulties Telling Their Stories (Kidderminster, 2000); Mark Jackson, The Borderland of Imbecility: Medicine, Society, and the Fabrication of the Feeble Mind in Late Victorian and Edwardian England (New York, 2000); David Wright and Anne Digby, eds., From Idiocy to Mental Deficiency (London, 1996); Peter Bartlett and David Wright, Outside the Walls of the Asylum: The History of Care in the Community 1750-2000 (London, 1999); Lindsay Brigham et. al., eds., Crossing Boundaries: Change and Continuity in the History of Learning Disability (Kidderminster, 2000); Maggie Potts and Rebecca Fido, A Fit Person to Be Removed (Plymouth, 1991); Sheena Rolph et. al, Witnesses to Change: Families, Learning Difficulties and History (Kidderminster, 2005); Michael Barrett, “From Education to Segregation: An Inquiry into the Changing Character of Special Provision for the Retarded in England, c. 1846-1918,” Ph.D. thesis, University of Lancaster, 1986; Andy Stevens, “The Institutional Care and Treatment of People Categorized as Mentally Defective before and after the Second World War: The Royal Eastern Counties Institution.” Ph.D. thesis, University of Essex, 1998; Anne Borsay, Disability and Social Policy in Britain Since 1750 (Basingstoke, 2005).

2 Letters dated 27 November 1883, H29/NF/A1/F/483; 28 June 1884, H29/NF/A1/4/450, London Metropolitan Archives [henceforth LMA].

3 Letter of 8 February 1884, H29/NF/A1/4/462. LMA

4 Letters dated 26 May 1922, H29/NF/A/01/227; 14 November 1932, H29/NF/A/01/246, LMA.

5 Margaret Bone, Bernie Spain and F. M. Martin, Plans and Provisions for the Mentally Handicapped (London, 1972), 35.

6 Thomson, Problem,248. The Registrar General’s Office did not separately enumerate “mental defectives” until 1949. My generalization (and Thomson’s) refers to “idiots” and “imbeciles,” not the merely feeble-minded. See The Registrar General’s Statistical Review of England and Wales for the Two Years 1952-3, Supplement on Mental Health (London, 1958), 28; The Registrar General’s Statistical Review of England and Wales for the Three Years 1954-6, Supplement on Mental Health (London, 1960), 161-2.

7 Cited in “Opening Ceremony of the Normansfield Training College for the Feeble in Mind,” Christian Union, 27 June 1879, Normansfield Scrapbook, Langdon Down Trust Archive. On the history of Normansfield: Andy Merriman, Tales of Normansfield: The Langdon Down Legacy (Teddington, 2007); O Conor Ward, John Langdon Down: A Caring Pioneer (London, 1998).

8 “Care for Imbecile Children,” Christian World, 27 June 1879, Normansfield Press Cutting Book.

9 Wright, Mental Disability, esp. 137-54. Among the many articles, esp. Dickens, “Idiots,” Household Words 7:167 (4 June 1853), 313-7; “Idiots Again,” Household Words 9:212 (April 1854),  197-200; “Education of Idiots,” Chambers’s Edinburgh Journal 193 (September 1847), 169-171; W.R. Scott [Edwin Sidney: Wellesley], “Remarks, Theoretical and Practical, on the Education of Idiots and Children of Weak Intellect,” Edinburgh Review 122:249 (July 1865), 37-74; The Education of the Imbecile, and the Improvement of Invalid Youth (Edinburgh, 1856), 11-15; Speeches of the Rev. Edwin Sidney, M.A. and of John Conolly, M.D. at a Public Meeting in the Town Hall, Cambridge, December 8th 1853, on Behalf of the Asylum for Idiots (London, n.d. [1853]). On the correspondence between fiction and the medical literature, Hilary Dickinson, “Idiocy in Nineteenth-Century Fiction Compared with Medical Perspectives of the Time,” History of Psychiatry 11:291 (2000), 291-309; on the Western Counties Idiot Asylum, David Gladstone, “The Changing Dynamic of Institutional Care,” in Wright and Digby, From Idiocy, 134-60.

10 On “idiocy” in early modern England, see the Neugebauer, Rushton and Andrews essays in Wright and Digby, From Idiocy, esp. 58-60; Peter Rushton, “Lunatics and Idiots: Mental Disability, the Community and the Poor Law in North-East England 1600-1800?,” Medical History 32 (1988); C. Goodey, “Intelligence Levels as Criteria of Abnormality: The Pre-History of Intelligence Testing,” in Berry Mayall, ed., Family Life and Social Control: Discourses on Normality (London, 1993); Jonathan Andrews, “Begging the Question of Idiocy: The Definition and Socio-Cultural Meaning of Idiocy in Early Modern Britain,” pts. 1 and 2, History of Psychiatry vol. 9 (March and June 1998): 56-95; 179-200.

11 Ibid. For a strong late Victorian statement about improvement, see G. E. Shuttleworth, Mentally-Deficient Children: Their Treatment and Training (London, 1900, 2nd. ed.), 130-8.

12 “Old Bloomsbury,” Moments of Being, 198, cited in Hermione Lee, Virginia Woolf (London, 1996), 102.

13 For example, Letter of 26 August, H29/NF/A/01/078; Letter of 28 July 1882, H29/NF/A/01/008; Letter of 30 August 1901;  Letter of 12 June 1909, H29/NF/A/01/152, LMA.

14 Letter of 31 January 1884, H29/NF/A1/4/476, LMA.

15 Letter of 7 October n.d. [1883?], H29/NF/A1/4, LMA.

16 Mary Dendy, “The Feeble-Minded,” Economic Review 13:3 (1903: July): 257-279, cite to 259. On Dendy, see Herbert McLachlan, Records of a Family, 1800-1933: Pioneers in Education, Social Service and Liberal Religion (Manchester, 1935), 135-183. Jackson, Borderland, esp. 56-78. See also C. Paget Lapage, Feeblemindedness in Children of School-Age (Manchester, 1911), esp. 228-39.

17 Thomson, Problem, 33-76; Jackson, Borderland, 203-226; David G. Pritchard, Education and the Handicapped, 1760-1960 (London, 1963), 177-194; Daniel Kevles, In the Name of Eugenics: Genetics and the Uses of Human Heredity (New York, 1985), 70-84.

18 Letter of 12 April 1908, H29/NF/A/01/145, LMA.

19 Letter of 28 February 1921, H29/NF/A1/211; Medical Case Book, H29/NF/B13/005, LMA.

20 Letter of 16 August 1924, H29/NF/A/01/234, LMA.

21 The term “carrier” became a staple of the discussion of the mental deficiency. Among many examples, see A. F. Tredgold, “Mental Disease: The Problem of Heredity,” Letter to the Editor, The Times, 1 October 1930, 8; “Mental Deficiency” [Leader], The Times, 24 June 1932, 13.

22 Report of the Interdepartmental Committee on Mental Deficiency, 1925-1929 [Wood Report](London, 1929), 175; on the Wood Report, Thomson, Problem, 209-11.

23 Letter of 7 June 1928, H29/NF/A/01/264, LMA.

24 Medical Case Book, 3 March 1955, H29/NF/B13/011, LMA.

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