Early Education of the Blind in Britain 1790 - 1900

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Illustrates the educational experience of the blind in Victorian Britain, and examines critically the origins, nature, achievements and shortcomings of the voluntary institutions responsible in the State’s absence. The work discusses early unheeded criticisms of utilitarian education in confinement, the influential reports of the Charity Organisation Society (1876) and the Royal Commission (1899) on the condition of the disabled, and compares the role of the British state with more active governments elsewhere. Overall, Britain’s institutions offered inferior industrial training and less cultural stimulation than their counterparts in Saxony, France or the United States.


“John Oliphant’s scholarly and well-written book, the first substantial study of education for the blind in Britain since J.M. Ritchie’s 1930 volume, Concerning the Blind, is ... most timely. It ... constitutes an important contribution to the public knowledge about the social history of Victorian Britain. ... Historical scholarship in the fields of special educational needs and disability studies offers great potential for new work and revisionism. John Oliphant’s well-crafted and attractively-written book seizes both of these opportunities. It will be read for both profit and pleasure.” - Dr. David Crook, Senior Lecturer, Institute of Education, University of London

“This study raises and answers questions in the fields of charity, educational and disability history and for contemporary social development, where it offers several promising indications for future research.” - Dr. Ian Maxwell Hammett, Formerly Professor, Faculty of Economics, Daitou Bunka University, Tokyo, Japan

“This is an interesting monograph in an under-researched area in the history of education, which has acquired considerable importance in recent years. ... It is a work which makes accessible many of the recent historiographical debates on the history of special education and the role of philanthropy in British life, while the use made of primary sources of evidence, particularly on the realities of the institutional experience of the disabled, makes this a welcome contribution to this emerging field of scholarship.” - Professor Noel Williams, Faculty of Law, Daitou Bunka University, Tokyo, Japan

Table of Contents

List of Abbreviations
Foreword by David Crook
1 Charity and “Blindness”
2 Discovering the Blind
3 The Challenge to Voluntarism
4 Government, the Law and Blindness
5 Within the Walls
6 Conclusions

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