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The Problem of Mental Deficiency : Eugenics, Democracy, and Social Policy in Britain, c.1870-1959 - Mathew Thomson

The Problem of Mental Deficiency

Eugenics, Democracy, and Social Policy in Britain, c.1870-1959

Hardcover Published: 1st November 1997
ISBN: 9780198206927
Number Of Pages: 368

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This is the first detailed assessment of the development and implementation of social policy to deal with the problem of the 'mentally deficient' in Britain between 1870 and 1959. Mathew Thomson analyses all the factors involved in the policy-making process, beginning with the politics of the legislature and showing how the demands of central government were interpreted by local authorities, resulting in a wide and varied distribution of medical, institutional, and community care in different parts of the country. The efforts of health professionals, voluntary organizations and the families themselves are considered, alongside questions about the influence of changing concepts of class, gender, and citizenship. The author queries the belief that the policy of segregation was largely unsuccessful, and reveals a hitherto unrecognized system of care in the community. He reframes our understanding of the campaign for sterilization and examines why British policy-makers avoided extremist measures such as the compulsory sterilization introduced in Germany and parts of the US during this period. Thomson shows that the problem of mental deficiency cannot be understood simply in terms of eugenics but must also be considered as part of the process of adjusting to democracy in the twentieth century.

Industry Reviews

`This text clearly stands as the most significant account to-date of the social policies developed for those labelled as mentally and socially deficient.' Joseph Melling, The Economic History Review, Vol.LIII, No.2, May 00. `In a fascinating chapter on the geography of mental deficiency, Thomson traces the different ways in which agencies sought to clarify the boundaries of defective behaviour while experts mapped out the transgressions of the urban slum dweller compare with the rural imbecile.' Joseph Melling, The Economic History Review, Vol.LIII, No.2, May 00. `this scholarly and well researched account of state policies between the late Victorian period and the postwar welfare state.' Joseph Melling, The Economic History Review, Vol.LIII, No.2, May 00. `This is a finely detailed, extensively researched and clearly narrated monograph that explores the historical backwaters of mental deficiency policies, particularly in the middle decades of the twentieth century ... Thomson succinctly exposes the ways in which the policies and administrative strategies employed by a variety of constituents were influenced not only by party politics but also by the class, gender, religious, professional, and economic interests of local and national actors ... a first-rate contribution to the neglected history of mental deficiency and social policy, one that sets a benchmark for future studies.' Mark Jackson, University of Exeter, Social History of Medicine, Vol 12, no 2, 1999 `This first comprehensive study of mental deficiency... Thomson's complex, intriguing narrative. Thomson's book is an important statement that provides a welcome perspective on contemporary argument about the consequences of the deinstitutionalization of mental health services since the 1960's.' Richard A. Soloway, Albion `If this detailed study does not provide as clear an account of the sterilization campaign as one might desire, its great strength lies in its careful portrayal of the continual rounds of conflicts and negotiations that underlay the treatment of the mentally deficient ... Thomson makes a good case that the very existence in Britain of so many competing groups prevented it from embracing the extremist eugenic measures of neighbouring states.' Angus McLaren, University of Victoria, EHR, Sept 99

Acknowledgementsp. v
Abbreviationsp. viii
Introductionp. 1
The Parliamentary Politics of Mental Deficiencyp. 36
Conclusionp. 75
The Board of Controlp. 77
Introductionp. 77
Conclusionp. 108
The Colony Solutionp. 110
Introductionp. 110
Conclusionp. 147
Introductionp. 149
The Community Care Solutionp. 149
Conclusionp. 178
The Sterilization Solutionp. 180
Introductionp. 180
Conclusionp. 204
Introductionp. 206
The Geography of Mental Deficiencyp. 206
Conclusionp. 236
Introductionp. 239
The Micro-Politics of Mental Deficiencyp. 239
Conclusionp. 268
Mental Deficiency and the Welfare Statep. 270
Introductionp. 270
Conclusionp. 292
Epiloguep. 293
Conclusionp. 297
Appedix: Number Of Mental Defectives Under Various Forms Of Provisionp. 306
Select Bibliographyp. 307
Indexp. 343
Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.

ISBN: 9780198206927
ISBN-10: 0198206925
Series: Oxford Historical Monographs
Audience: Professional
Format: Hardcover
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 368
Published: 1st November 1997
Country of Publication: GB
Dimensions (cm): 22.4 x 14.58  x 2.77
Weight (kg): 0.53