Review of Those They Called Idiots by Simon Jarrett
Simon Jarrett’s Those They Called Idiots: The Idea of the Disabled Mind from 1700 to the Present Day is a comprehensive and insightful exploration into the history of ideas of intellectual disability, especially in the United Kingdom but with many references to Europe and North America. The book focuses primarily on the exchange of popular, legal, and medical conceptions of intellectual disability (Jarrett uses the historically-appropriate terms idiocy, imbecility, mental deficiency, feeble-mindedness, etc., depending on the era under exploration) in the eighteenth and nineteenth century, and connects discourses of disability with other parallel narratives, especially colonial discourses linking “idiots” with “savages.”
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