This case study is the result of a unique collaboration between a social historian and a cognitive scientist. It examines the enigmatic case of Hugh Blair, an eighteenth century Scottish 'laird' or landowner, whose arranged marriage was annulled on the grounds of his mental incapacity. Through an in-depth study of the evidence surrounding the case, the authors conclude that Blair, who was classed at the time as a 'fool', was in fact autistic. Writing in a lively and engaging style, the authors draw together witness statements from court records with a wide range of other documentation to set the sociohistoric scene for the case. This provides a fascinating context to which the latest theories on autism are applied. This book will not only intrigue both historians and psychologists but will also appeal to a wider audience for its study of this compelling and deeply affecting human story.
"I found this book utterly absorbing and utterly convincing. The
richness of historical detail - testimonies and actual
interrogations - and its telling hold one like a novel. The minute
sifting of the evidence is in the best historico-clinical
tradition, weighing everything carefully, never overstating or
pushing. The interest spreads in all directions - about the way the
law, the culture, and ordinary people thought of mental incapacity
or madness in the eighteenth century. I think Autism in
History will be extremely valuable in many different ways."
Oliver Sacks M.D. Author of Awakenings
"The authors guide us through the case with an expert hand, in a
book written for a wide range of non-specialist readers. What's
more, the book constitutes a unique introduction to autism,
presenting both its scientific and clinical aspects, as well as the
person and their social circumstances. A stimulating read."
Infancia y Aprendizaje, vol 24(2), 2001.
"Rab Houston and Uta Frith provide a splendid case study of
probably autism from eighteenth-century Scotland. Houston and Frith
are to be congratulated in their synthesis of the evidence for Hugh
Blair of Borgue being a case of autism in history. They have done
so in a manner and style that is as cautious as it is thorough."
Stephen Jones, Norfolk Mental Health Care Trust, Social History
of Medicine, vol 14 (2), 2001.
"This is a fascinating book." RH Campbell, Transactions, Vol
"In presenting Hugh Blair, a member of the landowning class in
eighteenth-century Scotland, Autism in History demonstrates
a refreshing lack of squeamishness ... Although Houston and Frith
conclude confidently that they are looking at a case of the same
condition we now call autism, they remain sensitive to the ways
that historical conditions could influence the perception or
presentation of the disorder. In addition, Houston and Frith amass
convincing data to show that Blair was, in fact, autistic. It might
be possible to quibble with their retrospective diagnosis, but they
make a highly plausible case." Jonathan Sadowsky, Castele
Associate Professor of Medical History, Case Western Reserve
University, Journal of the History of the Behavioural Sciences,