Journal Article

‘A Plentiful Crop of Cripples Made by All This Progress’: Disability, Artificial Limbs and Working-Class Mutualism in the South Wales Coalfield, 1890–19481

Ben Curtis and Steven Thompson

in Social History of Medicine

Published on behalf of Society for the Social History of Medicine

Volume 27, issue 4, pages 708-727
Published in print November 2014 | ISSN: 0951-631X
Published online April 2014 | e-ISSN: 1477-4666 | DOI:

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Historians of orthopaedics, artificial limbs and disability have devoted a great deal of attention to children and soldiers but have neglected to give sufficient space in their studies to industrial workers, the other patient group that has been identified as crucial to the development of these areas. Furthermore, this attention has led to an imbalanced focus on charitable and philanthropic activities as the main means of assistance and the neglect of a significant part of the voluntary sphere, the labour movement. This article, focusing on industrial south Wales, examines the efforts of working-class organisations to provide artificial limbs and a range of other surgical appliances to workers and their family members in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It finds that a distinctive, labourist conception of disability existed which envisaged disabled workers as an important priority and one to which significant time, effort and resources were devoted.

Keywords: disability; artificial limbs; labour movement; mutualism; south Wales

Journal Article.  10862 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Social and Cultural History ; History of Medicine

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