Disability, rehabilitation and the body in Georgian England: a cultural history of the wooden leg

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Date: 13 December 2012
Venue: M Shed, Princes Wharf, Wapping Road, Bristol BS1 4RN
Time: 18:00-19:30


As part of the UWE Regional History Centre and M Shed Seminar Programme 2012-13, Dr David Turner, Reader in History at the University of Swansea, will present a talk entitled: "Disability, rehabilitation and the body in Georgian England: a cultural history of the wooden leg"

Physical disability takes many forms, but in the eighteenth century its most conspicuous manifestation was the wooden-legged amputee. In 1799 the French traveller Jacques-Henri Meister noted that there were more wooden legs on display in London than any of the 'great cities' of Europe.

Artificial limbs provoked a number of contradictory responses: on the one hand they represented heroic sacrifice in national service (embodied in the figure of the peg-legged sailor), but on the other they represented a state of permanent disablement and potential burden on resources.

They might simultaneously mark a person as an object of compassion or a target of mockery. And while artificial limbs were marketed as evidence of the increasing power of medical technology to alleviate suffering, they also raised questions about the motives and skills of surgeons who were accused by some of creating disability by choosing to amputate injured limbs indiscriminately.

This talk, presented as part of Disability History Month, uncovers the varied cultural meanings of wooden legs in the long eighteenth century and asks what they tell us about attitudes to – and experiences of – physical disability in the past.

Cost: Free
Contact: Dr Steve Poole
Telephone: 0117 32 84437
E-mail: Steve.Poole@uwe.ac.uk

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