"Idiocy" in early modern England

By: Shapland, Susanna.
Series: Community Living 34 (4) Summer 2021: 30.Publisher: 2021Subject(s): INTELLECTUAL DISABILITY | HISTORY | ENGLANDSummary: Defines 'early modern' England as 1500-1800 and suggests that 'idiots' in this period were an accepted part of society. They were usually (though not always) looked after in their parishes by their families, and were known to their neighbours and their communities. Argues that "early modern societies had a strong and consistent grasp of the difference between the idiot and the lunatic. The difference was based on a 13th century legal understanding of idiocy that recognised it as a permanent condition. This was in contrast to lunacy, which could strike at any time, and could also recede, leaving the afflicted with moments of lucidity. This distinction is part of the reason why idiots are largely absent from institutional records in this period "keepers" of institutions did not want to give room to the incurable. This distinction and definition were hugely important in administering legal decisions, and some of the clearest evidence that the idiot was an unremarkable part of their community is found in court records."
List(s) this item appears in: Community Living 34(4) Summer 2021
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Defines 'early modern' England as 1500-1800 and suggests that 'idiots' in this period were an accepted part of society. They were usually (though not always) looked after in their parishes by their families, and were known to their neighbours and their communities. Argues that "early modern societies had a strong and consistent grasp of the difference between the idiot and the lunatic. The difference was based on a 13th century legal understanding of idiocy that recognised it as a permanent condition. This was in contrast to lunacy, which could strike at any time, and could also recede, leaving the afflicted with moments of lucidity. This distinction is part of the reason why idiots are largely absent from institutional records in this period
"keepers" of institutions did not want to give room to the incurable. This distinction and definition were hugely important in administering legal decisions, and some of the clearest evidence that the idiot was an unremarkable part of their community is found in court records."

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