History

Historians grapple with and learn from disability via two distinct but overlapping methods of analyzing change over time. First, they examine the daily and structural lives of those considered disabled and others who interact with them; second, they analyze changing historical conceptualizations of disability, able-bodiedness, and able-mindedness. Many disability historians also explore disability and ableism’s relation to other frameworks of power—such as race, class, sexuality, age, gender, and family. Central to disability history is the analytical and archival task of unpacking the largely Western and contemporary cross-impairment category we now call disability.

Historical scholarship differs from other disciplines because of its reliance on evidentiary materials from the past and interest in change and continuities over time. Primary sources vary, but traditionally historians have drawn primarily on “official” text-based resources, such as proclamations and laws, newspapers, memoirs, court proceedings, and church records. Because of a historian’s power to select which sources …

This essay may be found on page 95 of the printed volume.

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