The Idiot

A History from 1700 to the Present Day

Simon Jarrett

The Idiot

Simon Jarrett

Distributed for Reaktion Books

304 pages | 62 halftones | 6 1/4 x 9 1/4
Cloth $35.00 ISBN: 9781789143010 Will Publish November 2020 For sale in North and South America only
The Idiot traces the little-known lives of people with learning disabilities from the communities of eighteenth-century England to the nineteenth-century asylum, to care in today’s society. Using evidence from civil and criminal courtrooms, joke books, slang dictionaries, novels, art, and caricature, it explores the explosive intermingling of ideas about intelligence and race, while bringing into sharp focus the lives of people often seen as the most marginalized in society.
Review Quotes
Joanna Bourke, Birkbeck, University of London
“Jarrett is a mesmerizing historian. He has an ear for tender, and sometimes even funny, stories about people with learning disabilities, while never shying away from the shocking abuse and casual indignities they experienced in the past and continue to be subjected to today. Jarrett overturns many assumptions about the history of disabled people and their interactions with different communities. His book is a history of medicine, science, law, philosophy, and psychology. Most of all, though, it is a history of lived experience. Jarrett’s story is not only a nuanced analysis of the lives of ‘idiots’ from 1700 to the present; it is also a tribute to their struggles, needs, and desires.”
David Turner, author of "Disability in Eighteenth-Century England"
“Jarrett’s elegant and provocative book brings into focus for the first time the history of people with intellectual disabilities over three centuries. Drawing on a fascinating set of sources, Jarrett traces the ‘idiot’s’ journey from community life to institutionalization and back again, and in the process uncovers the richness and variety of lives lived by people with intellectual impairments in the past. This is a history marked by cruel stereotyping and harmful policies underpinned by the pseudoscience of eugenics, but it is also a history of love, protection, and integration. This humane history teaches us how society can adapt to accommodate all its members.”
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