Disability, Psychiatry, and Eugenics

Mathew Thomson

in The Oxford Handbook of the History of Eugenics

Published in print September 2010 | ISBN: 9780195373141
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199940417 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 Disability, Psychiatry, and Eugenics

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This article reviews assumptions about psychiatry and mental disability, explaining why the mentally disabled, more than the mentally ill or the physically disabled, became the focus of eugenic anxiety as well as policy. It also examines why such policies were taken further in some countries than others, and whether the focus on mental disability applies equally to eugenics within a colonial setting. It argues that the primacy of the mentally disabled does not necessarily equate with the primacy of psychiatry: the development of eugenic policies toward the mentally disabled in this period is more crucially a consequence of political and economic context than of the influence of psychiatry itself. Finally, it concludes with an exploration of the history of disability, psychiatry, and eugenics since World War II.

Keywords: psychiatry; mental disability; eugenic; policy; economic context

Article.  8926 words. 

Subjects: Social and Cultural History

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