Disabled Century BBC Produced and Directed by David Hevey

September 30, 2017 by richard

Can be viewed on line at www.davidhevey.com/viewing

Episode 1

The Disabled CenturyEpisode 1 of 3

A look at the experiences of those disabled while fighting for their country in the two world wars, and the harsh, often brutal realities that confronted the vast majority of disabled people in the early years of the century. It covers World War I heroes reduced to begging in the streets; Horace Blackburn’s struggle to get work; Bill Surrey, in institutions for 77 years; Gladys Brooks, strapped to a steel frame for two and a half years; Snowy Harding, whose family could not afford a wheelchair; fighter ace Douglas Bader, who lost both legs; and the Guinea Pig Club.

Episode 2

The Disabled CenturyEpisode 2 of 3

A look at whether the creation of the welfare state made life better for Britain’s disabled community, and at the rights that disabled groups, including the blind and those affected by thalidomide, began to demand.

100 years of solitude The Guardian


When Les Price wanted to transcribe Ulysses into braille in the 1960s, the prim volunteers at the National Library for the Blind were mortified. That wasn’t the sort of enlightenment they had in mind. Peter Lennon reviews a century of patronising attitudes towards disabled people

Snowy Harding’s life is a weird illustration of Bishop Berkeley’s dictum: “I am because I am perceived”. Or, in his case: “I am what I am perceived to be.” As a child in the 1930s, Snowy would race down 53 steps in the council flats where he lived in West Ham, east London, and rush off the mile and a half to the pictures with the other kids. Then, perceived by his pals as normal, he would play cowboys and indians on the street with them.

The kids just accepted that Snowy did everything crawling. He has suffered all his life from muscular dystrophy, and his mother could not afford a wheelchair. “I didn’t know I was disabled,” Snowy says, “until during the war, when I was 14 and the other kids were evacuated to families in the country. I was sent to an institution.”

How disabled and disfigured people have been perceived over this century is the subject of a new three-part BBC2 series, The Disabled Century, starting tomorrow.

The century opened with disabled people hidden away or tolerated in small communities. It was assumed that they had nothing of any significance to contribute to society.

The first world war changed that somewhat; a place was found for many performing menial tasks in the munitions factories, doing their bit to add a few more disabled to the world.

When the soldiers returned from the second world war, society realised it owed a debt to those disabled in that conflict. At least in the early stages, disfigured soldiers were taken care of, living together in communities of their own. Morale was fairly good since they were “able to face the stares together”.

The 1960s brought a new scourge: thalidomide. Mat Fraser tells how compensation cases were assessed. His mother brought him into a room where there were some strange gentlemen. One of them said: “There are sweets in the top drawer of that filing cabinet.” With only stumps for arms, Mat managed to find the sweeties in the drawer. “£15,000 compensation,” the man said.

Mat Fraser was one of the rare victims of thalidomide who was able to go on to public school. On his first day as a prefect there was a ritual where all the fags were lined up and he had to slap one. He kicked him in the face instead; Mat was more accustomed to using his bare feet than his shrivelled arms. Later, his father gave him boxing gloves and he became a handy kick boxer.

Old attitudes towards disfigurement still clung obstinately to those entrusted with the care of young thalidomide victims. They did not like the idea of those shrublike arms and insisted on prosthetic aids when the children were eating. When it became clear that they were infinitely more skilful handling their food without artificial limbs, a compromise was reached in some homes: there was a rule that decency must be observed on Saturdays and special occasions, so the children were harnessed up at weekends.

For all the liberating ethos of the 1960s, the old patronising attitudes to disabled people persisted; they were still treated as children, expected to be pleased with simple things. Their own courage in living with their disability was often put down to a matter of Christian faith. They were rarely offered opportunities to control their own lives.

It was in the turbulent 1970s – the winter of discontent, Edward Heath and his three-day week – that individual protest began to be heard; but there was still no effective organisation to speak for people with disabilities.

After a youth of dependent living spent in institutions, with few possessions and no experience of organising their own lives, thalidomide children were dumped on the community at the age of 18. Care in the Community was the slogan later, but where were the resources to fund it? It had one useful effect: for good or evil, disabled people lost their isolation and became a very visible element in society.

In the 1980s, there was a hurried attempt to hide them away again. In contrast to the second world war – when, at least for a time, the war wounded were honoured – the triumphalism of the Falklands war did not chime with blasted faces and severed limbs. So when it came to the Falklands victory pagentry, the disabled servicemen tended to be hidden behind the arras.

In the late 1980s, there were serious moves to achieve civil rights for the disabled. It looked as if they might be getting somewhere with the proposals for a disability discrimination act. But when the act was passed in 1995, disabled people once again felt cheated: there were no adequate provisions for imposing sanctions on offenders. “They could just laugh at our legal threats,” disabled groups complained.

The 1990s brought the issue of direct action for access to the forefront, and Londoners at least began to experience a new kind of traffic problem when disabled members of the Direct Action Network began to chain themselves to buses.

When director David Hevey began research for The Disabled Century it was hard to find archive material. “In the old days people did not film disabilities specifically,” he says. “It was not seen as worthy of being filmed, except in a circus. Before the second world war it was not really seen as a photograph issue.”

When he did get archive footage, instead of resorting to the conventional device of cutting back and forth from past to present, he hit on an ingenious device to underline the fact that for these people their tormented past was actively part of their present: he projected images of their past on to their breasts, their faces, pulsating on their skin. “That way,” Hevey says, “their past is a physical sign, almost a stigma on their body. We explained why we were doing it, and they were happy with it. It showed that their history is still active in them, a living issue.”

But they were not all stories of frustration and deprivation. For Les Price, a blind piano tuner, the future seemed forbidding when, in his forties, television sets began to replace the upright piano in the parlour. But he got a job in the National Library for the Blind, and one of his duties was to arrange for the transcription of books into braille. When in 1962 he was made head librarian, he saw a chance to achieve a great ambition: to have James Joyce’s Ulysses transcribed into braille.

“It was my proudest moment,” Les says. “Except, of course, Manchester United winning everything”.

However, initially there was a problem. The National Library for the Blind was founded in 1882 by a group of elderly women whose motive was to give enlighten- ment – mostly of the religious variety – to the blind. “Many of the transcribers were prim ladies, mostly retired school teachers,” Les says. “By 1962, it had moved somewhat, but there was a rearguard action that we shouldn’t give anything to the blind that was ‘dirty’. It was not the staff who objected, but the whole [transcribing] procedure was based on volunteers. I should say that they were very dedicated people, but Lady Chatterley they would not have touched.”

Molly Bloom’s soliloquy was out of the question. In the end, Les Price found an ideal solution: “The transcription was done by a Jewish lady, a member of the staff at the library.”

Despite their determination and ingenuity, the disabled people are still a long way from winning a just place in society.Two out of three disabled people live in poverty or close to it; fewer than one in 10 secondary schools have wheelchair access; six out of 10 disabled people capable of working are not in work.

BBC/The Disabled Century, Broadcast 3 x 40’ film series. BBC2/BBC4/BFI 3×40’. Director/producer David Hevey
Mind Mental Health Media Awards nominee.
“Brilliant…a really good example of the bigger and better philosophy.” BBC2 Channel Controller.
“Visually striking” Paul Hoggart, The Times.
“Beauty and eloquence perpetually forced the viewer to look and hear in fresh ways”. Robert Hanks, The Independent.

“Exemplary..Magnificent..I hope to see it leading the Bafta nominations”, Gerard O’Donovan, The Telegraph.
“First rate”, Jack Dee, The Guardian’s My Media column.
“On any level, the best programme on television this week”. The Independent.
“Extraordinary” Daily Mail.
“Social history at its finest” Polly Toynbee, The Guardian.

Sierra Leone amputees turn to art

September 29, 2017 by richard

Painting by amputee artist Seih MansarayBildergebnis für Sierra Leone Amputees turn to Art

But in Sierra Leone, a country where the people have learnt the hard way that anything is possible, that is exactly what you will find.

I feel so happy now. With my paintings I’ve been able to show people why I am like I am.

Seih Mansaray

An afternoon visit to Aberdeen amputee camp satisfied my curiosity.

In a rundown shack at the back of this makeshift village, I found the artists hard at work.

One’s immediate impression is of how colourful this small, dusky room is.

Colourful, not only in comparison with the dirty brown of the surrounding camp, but colourful because of the smiles.

Not all the artists are amputees – many of them are children of amputees.

Light into their lives

But all of them are victims of war.

During Sierra Leone’s 10-year civil war, thousands of innocent civilians had their limbs hacked off.

The rebels of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) were the main perpetrators, but many of those maimed by machetes will accuse government soldiers.

Aberdeen amputee camp artists

Amputees have found a new goal in painting 

Between fighting forces it was, the amputees say, like for like.

But the end result is the same.

There is an overwhelming feeling of depression in the camp.

On previous visits numerous amputees had told me that they would rather be dead.

‘What use am I now?’ they ask in frustration, waving a severed limb as if to illustrate the point.


‘How can I help my children grow up and have a decent life?”

Finally a very simple project has brought some light into their lives.

Some of the children, as well as their disabled parents, have found something to focus on.

Hillary Ravenscroft and Abu Bangura

The project is about taking and giving

The painting is both therapeutic and potentially lucrative.

It all started out of guilt.

‘Guilt’, because some United Nations staff who had been carrying out research with the amputees felt that it was all take and no give.

They were looking for a way to give something back to the amputees.

Then Hillary Ravenscroft arrived in Sierra Leone, joining her husband on a business trip.

Healing process

As a teacher and an artist she was able to take up the mantle for the frustrated UN staff, and started the art project.

Its impact, she says, has been remarkable.

The act of recreating their memories as a shared image has become part of a healing process for the amputees.

Seih Mansaray at work

Seih Mansaray says painting has changed his life

But Hillary would not accept the credit for such therapy.

This has become a community project at heart.

Local businesses provide bits of material for the artists; a ream of paper from a print shop, a bucket of paint from a paint manufacturer.

What is more, the volume of work that the artists has produced illustrates the dedication with which they have thrown themselves into the project.


In less than three months more than 500 pieces of art have materialised, and the art group, of more than 50 people, keeps on growing.

Seih Mansaray is the oldest amputee in the group.

He no longer cries at night. Instead he puts his worries and dreams into his art.

Hillary Ravenscroft

For him painting has been a godsend, a way of telling his story and exorcising the demons that have plagued his mind since rebels hacked off his right arm four years ago.

“I feel so happy now. With my paintings I’ve been able to show people why I am like I am,” he says.

His pictures are basic but their content is brutal.

A smiling rebel stands over him holding an arm aloft as a trophy.

“They laughed at me,” he says. “But I’ve got a life again, I can do something useful. When I paint I forget that I’ve only got one arm.”

New lease of life

One of the children in the camp, Abu Bangura, lost his father to the rebels.

His mother had both her legs cut off.

Abu Bangura with one of his pictures

Abu Bangura will buy food with the painting money

As the oldest child, Abu assumed responsibility for the family.

The burden was often too much to bear but, as Hillary explains, the painting has given him a new lease of life.

“He no longer cries at night. Instead he puts his worries and dreams into his art,” she says.

The therapeutic aspect of the painting is undeniable but recently another, more concrete benefit has been added.

Art for food

The amputee art is being sold.

An exhibition at the UN headquarters in Freetown sold almost every piece of work.

Standing in front of his gallery of paintings Abu’s eyes light up.

Every item has a “Sold” sticker on it.

“I am so proud, I’ve sold everything. Now I will be able to buy enough food for my family and maybe even continue my education,” he says.

An artist at the amputee camp

Amputees learn to come to terms with their disability

This monetary aspect is integral to the project.

The amputees and their families are desperately short of money.

This little project has made a significant difference to so many lives.

Some might argue that their work is only popular because of who they are.

Their customers are more interested in the fact that the painting they buy is from an amputee camp.

For many the aesthetic value of the painting is secondary, but so what?

More and more foreigners are coming to Sierra Leone, and the macabre fascination with amputees is always there.

The amputees and their family have found a way of making money out of this western curiosity about brutality.

More importantly, however, they have found a way to deal with the terrible memories they have bottled up inside.

BBC News Tuesday, 11 June, 2002, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/2038949.stm

Tracey Lazard on UN CRPD Committee calling UK Government’s Treatment of Disabled People a Catastrophe

by richard


IL in Geneva

We gave evidence to the UN in August alongside our sister DDPOs

Deaf and Disabled People’s Organisations were hailed as “world leaders” by the UN for their efforts in bringing to light the injustices and human rights violations inflicted on Disabled people in the UK.The UN Disability Committee condemned the UK government, saying that austerity policies have caused a ‘human catastrophe’ for Deaf and Disabled people in the UK.

DDPOs and the thousands of Deaf and Disabled people we work with can feel very proud at the contribution we made. Catch up here:

Disability in Medieval Art

September 24, 2017 by richard

Most of the portrayals of disabled people from the 10th to end of 13th Century are to be found in illustrated hand coloured and drawn manuscripts, miniature paintings from greater Persia and stain glassed windows produced by unknown artisans or artists.. They are mainly moral tales and tales of miracles deriving from the religious stories of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

St Gulthric expells demon East Anglia 1210 (1)

St Gulthric expels a demon 1210, England. A acknowledgement of mental health ?

Christ Heals a paralytic The Gospel of Tsar Ivan Alexander, Turnova 1355 (3)Christ Heals a blind man The Syriac Lectionaary Mosul 1216 (1)

Christ heals a paralytic at pool at Bethesda-‘Take up thy bed and walk’ and Christ heals a blind man
Syrian Lectionary northern Iraq 1256-20

A paralytic is healed by Cuthbert's shrine 1200 DurhamLife of St cuthbert book. Heals child and blind man. Durham 1200

A paralytic healed by Cuthburt’s Shrine and a baby and youth cured by relics (a hair) of St Cuthbert. Bede’s Life of Saint Cuthburt ,Durham 1200.

Often disabled pilgrims were portrayed on their way to a holly shrine for a cure.


Pilgrims, 2 lame and one blind, on their way to Mount St.Michel in France. The Luttrel Psalter Lincoln 1325

Sometimes just a thorn from Christs Crown, nails from his cross or his winding sheet-the holy grail were attributed with cures.

The Holy Grail is carried to Sarras(Jerusalam) La Queste del Saint Graal France 1316. Note lame man cured.

The holy grail is carried to Sarras(Jerusalam) by knoights assisted by a lame man cured by Galahad The Quest for the Holy Grail France 1316

Manuscript illustrations give us glimpse into the life of disabled people during this period

meideval crutches July 18 Hermann of Reichenau 1013-1054Medieval crutches July 18 Hermann of Reichenau 1013-1054

MS. Bodl. 264, part 1. 14th C. The Romance of Alexander. Buttons up past elbow & low toward hem.

Disabled people as figures of fun. Harvesting

Royal 13 B VIII fol. 30v - A crippled man.


Stredovek Miniature fighter with a sword and crutch.

Fighter with a crutch!

n medieval England, the 'leprechaun', the 'blynde', the 'dumbe', the 'deaff', the 'natural fool', the 'creple', the 'lame' and the 'lunatick' were a highly visible presence in Everyday life.


Luttrell Psalter 1325.  In medieval England, the ‘leprechaun’, the ‘blynde’, the ‘dumbe’, the ‘deaff’, the ‘natural fool’, the ‘creple’, the ‘lame’ and the ‘lunatick’ were a highly visible presence in Everyday life and reflected in Manuscript illustrations.

Stained Glass windows in Cathedrals and Churches sent out similar messages.

William heals ablind woman York Minster

William heals a blind woman. York Minster

a-stained-glass-window-depicting-jesus-curing-the-man-with-palsy-church Church of Christ the Consoler, Skelton Cum Newby1


A-stained-glass-window-depicting-jesus-curing-the-man-with-palsy-church Church of Christ the Consoler, Skelton Cum Newby

Timur the Lame or Tamberlain featured in of minatures. The unlikely combination of a war leader who captured a sizeable central Asian empire whilst bein disabled from injuries in his leag and hand.

_64520891_tamerlane624Tamberlain in AnatoliaTamerlane who won the Ankara war against the Ottoman Sultan Bayezid I in July 28, 1402 did not immediately left Anatolia and stayed there for approximately one year.

Tamberlain in Anatolia. Tamerlane who won the Ankara war against the Ottoman Sultan Bayezid I in July 28, 1402

He did not immediately left Anatolia and stayed there for approximately one year.  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-20538810

A fallen rider revived by St Dominic. The caption says he broke his neck 1330 Yates Th0mpson MS England


A fallen rider revived by St Dominic. The caption says he broke his neck, 1330, Yates Thompson MS, England

Tamerlane imprisoned and humiliated the Ottoman Sultan Bayezid.


Lame Tamerlane imprisoned and humiliated the Ottoman Sultan Bayezid.

Timur defeats the sultan of Delhi

Timur defeats the Sultan of Delhi

7adecd0a4984cbe1c768583f03fa0ae2 (1)


The brazen serpent Hebrew Northern France 1278-98

The brazen serpent. Hebrew Northern France 1278-98

Source  Marvellous to Behold Miracles in Medieval Manuscripts Deirdre Jackson  2007 The British Library

Stephen Wiltshire, 1974–

September 22, 2017 by richard


Disability: Autistic Wiltshire was born in 1974 in London to West Indian parents. He is an autistic savant and world famous architectural artist. He learned to speak at the age of nine, and at the age of ten began drawing detailed sketches of London landmarks. While he has created many prodigious works of art, his most recent was a eighteen foot wide panoramic landscape of the skyline of New York City, after only viewing it once during a twenty minute helicopter ride.

 Stephen Wiltshire MBE - Biography
Stephen Wiltshire is an artist who draws and paints detailed cityscapes. He has a particular talent for drawing lifelike, accurate representations of cities, sometimes after having only observed them briefly. He was awarded an MBE for services to the art world in 2006. He studied Fine Art at City & Guilds Art College. His work is popular all over the world, and is held in a number of important collections.Stephen was born in London, United Kingdom to West Indian parents on 24th April, 1974. As a child he was mute, and did not relate to other people. Aged three, he was diagnosed as autistic. He had no language and lived entirely in his own world.

At the age of five, Stephen was sent to Queensmill School in London, where it was noticed that the only pastime he enjoyed was drawing. It soon became apparent he communicated with the world through the language of drawing; first animals, then London buses, and finally buildings. These drawings show a masterful perspective, a whimsical line, and reveal a natural innate artistry.

The instructors at Queensmill School encouraged him to speak by temporarily taking away his art supplies so that he would be forced to ask for them. Stephen responded by making sounds and eventually uttered his first word – “paper.” He learned to speak fully at the age of nine. His early illustrations depicted animals and cars; he is still extremely interested in american cars and is said to have an encyclopedic knowledge of them. When he was about seven, Stephen became fascinated with sketching landmark London buildings.

Stephen Wiltshire - child artist
One of Stephen’s teachers took a particular interest in him, who later accompanied his young student on drawing excursions and entered his work in children’s art competitions, many of which garnered Stephen awards. The local press became increasingly suspicious as to how a young child could produce such masterful drawings.

The media interest soon turned nationwide and the 7 year old Stephen Wiltshire made his first steps to launch his lifelong career. The same year he sold his first work and by the time he turned 8, he received his first commission from the British Prime Minister to create a drawing of Salisbury Cathedral.

In February 1987 Stephen appeared in The Foolish Wise Ones. (The show also featured savants with musical and mathematical talents.) During his segment Hugh Casson, a former president of London’s Royal Academy of Arts, referred to him as “possibly the best child artist in Britain.”

Casson introduced Stephen to Margaret Hewson, a literary agent who helped Stephen field incoming book deals and soon became a trusted mentor. She helped Stephen publish his first book, Drawings (1987), a volume of his early sketches that featured a preface by Casson. Hewson, known for her careful stewardship of her clients’ financial interests, made sure a trust was established in Stephen’s name so that his fees and royalties were used wisely.

Hewson arranged Stephen’s first trip abroad, to New York City, where he sketched such legendary skyscrapers as the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building, as part of a feature being prepared by the London-based International Television News. While in New York Stephen met Oliver Sacks.

Sacks was fascinated by the young artist, and the two struck up a long friendship; Sacks would ultimately write extensively about Stephen. The resulting illustrations from his visit – along with sketches of sites in the London Docklands, Paris, and Edinburgh – formed the basis for his second book, Cities (1989), which also included some drawings of purely imaginary metropolises.

Lord Byron, 1788 – 1824

September 20, 2017 by richard

Lord Byron

by Ellen Castelow

‘Mad, bad and dangerous to know’. That is how Lady Caroline Lamb described her lover George Gordon Noel, sixth Baron Byron and one of the greatest Romantic poets in English literature.

As famous for his scandalous private life as for his work, Byron was born on 22nd January 1788 in London and inherited the title Baron Byron from his great uncle at the age of 10.

He endured a chaotic childhood in Aberdeen, brought up by his schizophrenic mother and an abusive nurse. These experiences, plus the fact that he was born with a club foot, may have had something to do with his constant need to be loved, expressed through his many affairs with both men and women.

Lord Byron

He was educated at Harrow School and Trinity College, Cambridge. It was at Harrow that he experienced his first love affairs with both sexes. In 1803 at the age of 15 he fell madly in love with his cousin, Mary Chaworth, who did not return his feelings. This unrequited passion was the basis for his works ‘Hills of Annesley’ and ‘The Adieu’.

Whilst at Trinity he experimented with love, discovered politics and fell into debt (his mother said he had a “reckless disregard for money”). When he turned 21 he took up his seat in the House of Lords; however the restless Byron left England the following year for a two-year European tour with his great friend, John Cam Hobhouse. He visited Greece for the first time and fell in love with both the country and the people. Byron arrived back in England in 1811 just as his mother died. Whilst on tour he had begun work on the poem ‘Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage’, a partly autobiographical account of a young man’s travels abroad. The first part of the work was published to great acclaim. Byron became famous overnight and was much sought after in Regency London society. His celebrity was such his future wife Annabella Milbanke called it ‘Byromania’.

In 1812, Byron embarked on a affair with the passionate, eccentric – and married – Lady Caroline Lamb. The scandal shocked the British public. He also had affairs with Lady Oxford, Lady Frances Webster and also, very probably, with his married half-sister, Augusta Leigh.

In 1814 Augusta gave birth to a daughter. The child took her father’s surname of Leigh but gossip was rife that the baby girl’s father was in fact Byron. Perhaps in an attempt to recover his reputation, the following year Byron married Annabella Milbanke, with whom he had a daughter Augusta Ada. Because of Byron’s many affairs, the rumours of his bisexuality (homosexuality was illegal at this time) and the scandal surrounding his relationship with Augusta, the couple separated shortly after the birth of their child.

Lady Byron
Annabella, Lady Byron

In April 1816 Byron fled England, leaving behind a failed marriage, notorious affairs and mounting debts. He spent that summer at Lake Geneva with the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, his wife Mary and Mary’s half sister Claire Clairmont, with whom Byron had had an affair whilst in London. Claire was an attractive, lively and voluptuous brunette and the couple rekindled their affair in Italy. In 1817 she returned to London and gave birth to their their daughter, Allegra.

Byron travelled on to Italy. In Venice he had more affairs, with Marianna Segati, his landlord’s wife and Margarita Cogni, wife of a Venetian baker.

The sale of Newstead Abbey for £94,500 in the autumn of 1818 cleared Byron’s debts and left him with a generous income.

By now, Byron’s life of debauchery had aged him well beyond his years. However in 1819, he began an affair with the Countess Teresa Guiccioli, only 19 years old and married to a man nearly three times her age. The two became inseparable; Byron moved in with her in 1820.

Teresa Guiccioli
Teresa Guiccioli

It was during this period in Italy that Byron wrote some of his most famous works, including ‘Beppo’, ‘The Prophecy of Dante’ and the satiric poem ‘Don Juan’, which he never finished.

By now Byron’s daughter Augusta had arrived in Italy, sent by her mother Annabella to be with her father. Byron sent her away to be educated at a convent near Ravenna, where she died in April 1822. Later that same year Byron also lost his friend Shelley who died when his boat, the Don Juan, went down at sea.

His earlier travels had left Byron with a great passion for Greece. He supported the Greek war for independence from the Turks and in 1823 left Genoa to travel to Cephalonia to become involved. He spent £4000 refitting the Greek fleet and in December 1823 sailed to Messolonghi, where he took command of a Greek unit of fighters.

His health began to deteriorate and in February 1824, he fell ill. He never recovered and he died at Missolonghi on April 19th.

Death of Lord Byron

His death was mourned throughout Greece where he was revered as a national hero. His body was brought back to England to be buried in Westminster Abbey but this was refused on account of his “questionable morality”. He is buried at his ancestral home Newstead Abbey, in Nottinghamshire.

Early Graphic Illustration, Comic Strips and Disability

September 18, 2017 by richard

The history of printing goes back to the duplication of images by means of stamps in very early times. The use of round seals for rolling an impression into clay tablets goes back to early Mesopotamian civilization before 3000 BCE, they feature complex and beautiful images. In both China and Egypt, the use of small stamps for seals preceded the use of larger blocks. In China, India and Europe, printing on cloth certainly preceded printing on paper or papyrus. The process is essentially the same: in Europe special presentation impressions of prints were often printed on silk until the 17th century. The development of printing has made it possible for books, newspapers, magazines, and other reading materials to be produced in great numbers, and it plays an important role in promoting literacy and in its earlier form reinforcing religious belief and moral codes.

Printing methods where used to reproduce images and made these much more widely available. As the vast majority could not read graphic illustration using a variety of printing methods replaced manuscript hand illustrations that had been limited to monasteries and royal palaces. Artists could reproduce their work and make cultural, social and political comments. Disability features in these prints as moral tales, Bible stories and political and social comment. Disabled people show as pitiable and pathetic, triumphing over tragedy, figures of fun, a burden, penitent sinners, evil, powerless, immoral, but never as just ordinary living their lives as most people did at these times.


An early engraving in Europe is Martin Schugauer (1450-1491) in his take on St Martin of Tour. A Roman Centurion who cut his cloak to give to a disabled beggar to keep him warm. He was put to death by the Roman Army and so became a Saint. The print evokes attitudes of pity and charity. The disabled person is seen as pathetic.


Early illustrations were to show the seven deadly sins or 10 commandments. A good example is the title page of -Purgatory and the lament of Roman courtesans 1530

Title page Maestro Andreas Purgatory and lament of Roman coutyesans 1530 BM

The visual language used then moved on to narrative –telling a story in pictures usually having a moral.

An Italian transformation pint c.1600, the Dangers of love is a strong message to steer clear away from love or you will contract disease and disability and end up being taken to the mad house. This  moral tale was conveniently folded so you could keep it about your person and so when tempted take it out to refresh your resolve. Interestingly one of the only copies is in the Queen’s print collection at Windsor.



Similar story is oft repeated where disability is the reward for sin or immoral behaviour

Teunissen Rise fall of a high flying youth 1535


Teunissen Rise fall of a high flying youth 1535 where he acquires an impairment as his just deserts only to become more modest and recovers. The same German print maker shows what happens to a man who misuses his property.

Teunissen 1535 Misuse of property


A wonderful true story of an 18 year old crippled girl at Einsiedeln 1580 Swiss

The wonderful story of an 18 year old crippled girl at Einsedeln April 9th 1580 . A Miracle cure. The girl  lame from birth, is determined against all reason and advice to crawl alone many miles to the famous pilgramage  Centre of Einsieldeln in Switzerland. She crouches by the river screaming until 2. She is ferried across. She crawls on, to  the amazement of passers-by, until she meats a noble bearded man in a white gown, who marks her on the knee. 3. Healed she thanks her Benefactor, who 4. Sends her on her way. She disappears into the distance towards the shrine, still looking over her shoulder to the scene of the miraculous cure. Unknown Swiss or German Artist .



Guiseppi Maria Mitelli a century later gives us a more documentary allegory of man’s life.. 1706 You who love and esteem deceitful world, consider its promises, fruits and trickery. 1. At birth, man groans under the oppression of swaddling clothes. 2. Then, as a child, he is subject to the scourge of others. 3. As a young man, he is tyrannized by love. 4. As a grown man he labours to earn a living. 5. He is threatened and scolded by a superior. 6. There is no end to the lawsuits against him. 7. Creditors imprison him. 8.No one helps him when he is reduced to beggary. 9. Once again unjustly attacked. 10. He reaches old age full of disease. 11. He lies in painful illness and prolonged sorrow. 12. Finally he is reduced to a miserable corpse.

In another more moralistic print Mitelli gives us the unhappy Life of a prostitute divided into the twelve months of the year. Again she ends up disabled with a crutch.

Mitelli The Unhappy life of a prostitute 1691


Mitelli was kean on portraying disabled people using them to put across a moral message.Giuseppe Maria Mitelli (1634–1718) was an Italian engraver and painter of the Baroque period. He was the son of the prominent quadratura painter Agostino Mitelli. The younger Mitelli was best known for his prolific engravings, in a great variety of subjects, including scenes from grand epics to mundane page boards for games of chance using dice, Tarot cards, and an Iconophor with anthropomorphized alphabets.[1] He also engraved genre subjects, allegories, moralistic scenes, but even some bizarre cartoons that could be interpreted as sometimes provocatively subversive, or presciently revolutionary, and sometimes imaginatively bizarre.[2] He often depicted dwarfs engaged in buffoonery or satirical depictions of aphorisms, which recalls the Bambocciate di nani or arte pigmeo of genre painter Faustino Bocchi (1659–1742).

Pilgrim, Tarrot Card and Discordant Musicians.



1678 Guiseppi Mitelli Proverb FiguratiC17th Tarot Card MitelliDiscordant Musicians Mitelli


Mitelli A_life-class_in_a_grotesque_academy_of_artists;_a_hunchback_Wellcome_V0048969

An Academy of Dwarf Painters drawing a hunchback.


This last is reminiscent of the work of  Jaques Callot 1592 in Nancy ; † March 1635  .

L’Estropié a la Béquille et a La Jambe de Bois (The Cripple with a Crutch and a Wooden Leg), from Varie Figure Gobbi Jaques Callot 1616

DP818577L'Estropié a la Béquille et a La Jambe de Bois (The Cripple with a Crutch and a Wooden Leg), from Varie Figure Gobbi Jaques Callot 1616

Le Joueur de Flageolet (The Flageolet Player), from Varie Figure Gobbi, 1616-20 Jaques Callot NYM

DP818534Le Joueur de Flageolet (The Flageolet Player), from Varie Figure Gobbi, 1616-20 Jaques Callot NYM


As the Eighteen Century began. Disability was used as a metaphor for political or national weakness.

Romeyn de Hooghe(1701) Cartoon shows Louis XIV ( The Sun God who built Versailles and attacked the Protestant Dutch) as a crippled Apollo,

driven by Mme de Maintenon(his mistress) in a broken chariot over the terrestial globe, while the Dutch lion springs forward to tear down the horse.

Romeyn de Hooghe 1701 Louise XIV


Hogarth used disability as a sign of moral weakness as exemplified by the explaination by Simon Jarrett on this website.

Hogarth Plate 6 Industry and Idleness Billy in the Bowl and band

As did Cruikshank in many prints such as the the History of John Bull’s (Britain) warlike expedition (1793) or in John Bull’s Progress or

Admiral on crutches , being a comment on the Navy’s poor performance.




John Bull Criukshank 1793


gillray_johnbull progress 1793


Admiral on crutches


Similarly Rowlandson lampooned the fashionable Spa Town of Bath in as full of useless overweight and disabled aristocrats in Bath Races 1898 and 1910

bath_races-400rowlandson_the-bath-races-plate-12-from-comforts-of-bath-1798Bath Races Rowlandson 1810

In compiling this page great reliance was placed upon “The Early Comic Strip: Narrative Strips and ‘Picture Stories in the European Broadsheet from c.1450 to c.1825″ by David Kunzle , Berkley, California; University of California Press 1973


40 Facts about Tamerlane – Timur the Lame

September 17, 2017 by richard

40 Facts about Tamerlane – Timur the Lame

Updated on April 19, 2015
A reconstruction of Tamerlane's face.
A reconstruction of Tamerlane’s face. | Source

Who Was Tamerlane?

Timur was a 14th Century Turko-Mongol military leader who conquered most of the Muslim world, central Asia, and parts of India. His Timurid Empire rivaled the size and power of the Mongolian domain forged by Genghis Khan a century earlier.

Known by his nickname, Tamerlane, it’s unclear why many people in the Western world have never heard of this brutal and ingenious warlord. To rectify this neglect, the following is a list of interesting facts about Tamerlane. The list includes notable events in his life; analyzes his acerbic personality, and remarks on current impressions of this fascinating historical figure.

A statue of Tamerlane in Uzbekistan.
A statue of Tamerlane in Uzbekistan. | Source

40 Interesting Facts about Timur the Lame

1. Timur (meaning `iron’) was born in 1336 near the city of Kesh in Transoxiania. This historic Persian city is now known as Shahrisabz in modern day Uzbekistan.

2. Tamerlane is the European derivation of Timur’s Persian nickname, Timur-e Lang, which means `Timur the Lame’.

3. During his mid-twenties, Tamerlane was crippled by injuries to his right leg and right hand. Legend states that he was shot by arrows when his band of thieves was ambushed by a shepherd. It’s more likely that the injuries were sustained in battle when he was a soldier for the Khan of Sistan (in north-east Iran).

4. In 1941, Russian archaeologists excavated Tamerlane’s tomb, confirming that he had a debilitating hip injury and two fingers missing from his right hand.

5. The excavation revealed that he was tall for the time (1.73 m) and broad-chested. He had prominent cheek bones and Mongoloid features (see reconstruction).

6. Timur’s tomb was allegedly inscribed with the words “When I rise from the dead, the world shall tremble”.

7. His coffin supposedly read: “Whoever opens my tomb shall unleash an invader more terrible than I”. Hitler invaded the USSR within two days of the exhumation, and when Timur was finally reburied, the Soviet victory at Stalingrad shortly followed.

Tamerlane's tomb in Samarkand.
Tamerlane’s tomb in Samarkand. | Source

8. Tamerlane’s ambition was to rebuild the empire of Genghis Khan, who had died a century earlier.

9. His military conquests saw him conquer land that comprises the modern day countries of Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, large parts of Turkey and Syria, and the north-western portion of India (Delhi).

10. It is estimated that his armies killed 17 million people, which was about 5% of the global population at the time.

11. He referred to himself as the `Sword of Islam’ and converted much of his empire to the religion. This included Genghis Khan’s descendents, the Borjigin clan.

12. Tamerlane’s own religious affiliation is unclear, and he may have been using Islam as a means to consolidate and exert power. Indeed, he was a highly intelligent politician who spoke Turkish, Mongolian and Persian.

The breadth of the Timurid Empire.
The breadth of the Timurid Empire. | Source

13. Tamerlane’s father was a prominent member of the Barlas tribe, which had been close with Genghis Khan’s Borjigin clan. However, the Barlas tribe had been converted to Islam and spoke Turkish.

14. Despite this, Tamerlane idolized Genghis Khan and used similar methods to build his empire. For example, he was a military mastermind who led a multi-ethnic army. He instilled great loyalty, and was adept at taking advantage of temporary weaknesses in the political state of his enemies. He also used spies and propaganda to sow the seeds for invasion, and planned his campaigns years in advance.

15. Tamerlane was a natural leader. He spent his teenage years leading a band of petty thieves. They stole livestock from farmers, and property from travelers and merchants.

16. In his twenties, Tamerlane fought under the rule of various Khans and Sultans. His leadership skills led to him being given command of a thousand soldiers for an invasion of Khorasan (in north-east Iran). The success of this mission led to further commands and prestige.

17. When his leader, Kurgan, died, the subsequent struggle for power was eventually halted by the invasion of Tughlugh Khan from the Mongol Chagatai Khanate. The head of the Barlas tribe fled the invasion, and Timur was chosen by the Mongols as his replacement.

18. When Tughlugh Khan died and entrusted Transoxiania to his son Ilyas, Timur and his brother-in-law, Amir Husayn, sensed their opportunity and took the region by force.

Timur is made king in northern Afghanistan.
Timur is made king in northern Afghanistan. | Source

19. Now in his mid-thirties, Timur was a tribal leader with a territory to defend. He used his power wisely, showing kindness and charity to nobles, merchants, and the clergy. This gained him many allies, and much power.

20. Amir Husayn treated his subjects harshly and became jealous of Timur’s growing power. They quickly became rivals, forcing Timur to capture Amir. He was later assassinated, giving Timur complete control in northern Iran and Afghanistan.

21. Tamerlane dominated over the Chagatai chieftains to the north-east, and eventually claimed the Mongol territory by marrying, Saray Mulk Khanum, a Chagatai princess and descendant of Genghis Khan.

22. Tamerlane was unable to become the Mongol emperor because he was not a descendent of Genghis Khan. Likewise, he couldn’t claim legitimacy in the Muslim world because he wasn’t a descendent of Muhammad. Instead he ruled the Chagatai Khanate via a puppet ruler, and attributed his military successes in Persia to the will of Allah.

23. Timur led his armies in all directions over the next three decades. In the south and west, Persia was completely conquered. To the north-west, Georgia and Azerbaijan were taken. To the north, the Mongol “Golden Horde” was decisively defeated, though he avoided threatening the Mongol homeland to the north-east.

Timur defeats the Sultan of Delhi.
Timur defeats the Sultan of Delhi. | Source

24. In 1398, and at the age of 62, Timur was now a legendary conqueror with a vast territory. He turned his army towards India in the south-east. Unlike his other conquests, Timur slaughtered the Pakistani and Indian people, justifying the barbarism as a holy war against the Hindu religion.

25. The Sultan of Delhi used war elephants, covered with chain mail, to terrify Timur’s troops. In a stroke of cruel genius, Timur placed hay on the backs of camels, set the hay on fire, and prodded them until they painfully charged at the elephants. The elephants turned and stampeded their own troops, granting Timur an easy victory. The population of Delhi were massacred.

26. Much like Genghis Khan, Tamerlane was opportunistic. His campaigns of Persia and Delhi took advantage of power struggles that had weakened their defenses.

27. Timur’s cruelty grew in his later years. Legend states that his invasion of Baghdad (Iraq) in 1399 required each of his soldiers to show him two severed heads from the largely Christian population.

Tamerlane imprisoned and humiliated the Ottoman Sultan Bayezid.
Tamerlane imprisoned and humiliated the Ottoman Sultan Bayezid. | Source

28. In revenge for insulting letters sent by the Ottoman Sultan Bayezid (Turkey), Timur conquered the Ottoman Empire in 1402, and Bayezid died in captivity.

29. His victory began a civil war in Turkey in which Timur’s candidate, Mehmed I, secured power. Mehmed belonged to a tribe that the Mongols had previously allowed to rule the region.

30. Tamerlane had friendly relations with some European states, namely France and Spain. Both he and the Europeans saw themselves as reluctant allies against the Ottomans.

31. Right up until his death, Timur continued to expand his empire. The leader of the new Chinese Ming Dynasty had insulted Timur, provoking his wrath. However, after 3 months of successful battles, the campaign ended when Timur succumbed to fever and died.

32. Despite preferring spring assaults, Timur had prematurely attacked the Chinese during the harsh winter of 1404. This suggests that his anger at the Chinese contributed to his demise.

33. Timur Tamerlane died on the 17th of February 1405 at the age of 68. His body was embalmed and buried in an ebony coffin in Samarkand, fifty miles north of his birthplace in Kesh.

34. Timur had 4 sons. The eldest two, Jahangir and Umar Shaykh, died before him, while Miran Shah died soon after. Timur was succeeded by his youngest son, Shah Rukh.

35. The Black Sheep Turkmen destroyed the western half of his empire when they sacked Baghdad in 1410, though Shah Rukh continued the Timurid dynasty by retaining control of the eastern half. He set up his capital in Herat, Afghanistan.

Some beautiful Timurid architecture.
Some beautiful Timurid architecture. | Source

36. Tamerlane’s descendents include Babur, founder of the Indian Mughal Empire, and the scientifically adept Timurid ruler, Ulugh Beg.

37. The Timurid Empire lasted until 1507. The Persian Safavid dynasty took most of Iran in 1501, while a contingent of Uzbek tribes invaded from the north to take Herat in 1507.

38. Like many other formidable leaders, Tamerlane’s legacy is unclear. He is regarded as a hero in central Asian states such as Uzbekistan.

39. In much of Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, and India, he is vilified as a monster for massacring the populations. Nevertheless, some Muslim scholars applaud him for uniting the Muslim world.

40. Despite forcing Christians out of much of the Muslim world, he was highly regarded in Europe for defeating the Ottomans, though that impression has become less favorable in recent times.

A Short Lecture About The Timurids

It’s unclear why Tamerlane and the Timurid Empire are under-represented in popular historical discourse. Perhaps it’s because his achievements were very similar, but slightly less notable, than those of Genghis Khan. Why speak of the second greatest Asian ruler when you can speak of the first?

It’s possible that his empire was too short-lived to be given much attention (137 years). After all, the Persian, Ottoman, Mongol, and Mughal Empires survived far longer. Perhaps, his cruelty discouraged the civilizations who could have popularized his story; or maybe his lameness caused fewer writers to glorify his achievements. While others have succeeded in immortalizing themselves with barbarism, we may never know why Tamerlane escaped a similar degree of notoriety.


Was Tamerlane disabled?

by richard

Disability history month: Was Tamerlane disabled?

    • 4 December 2012

Tamerlane – derived from his nickname Timur the Lame – rose from obscurity to become a 14th Century conqueror of nations, who piled high the skulls of his enemies. It was quite a feat at a time when physical prowess was prized, writes Justin Marozzi.

Think of the greatest conquerors of all time and chances are you’ll quickly list Genghis Khan and Alexander the Great. It is rather less likely, unless you come from Central Asia or the Muslim world more widely, that you’d spare a thought for Tamerlane.

Yet in many ways this Tartar warlord, born near Samarkand in 1336 in what is now Uzbekistan, outshone both the Macedonian king and the Mongol warlord.

Unlike Alexander, Tamerlane was not of royal blood, but came from humble stock.

He began his world-conquering rampages as a petty sheep-rustler among the steppes and high mountain passes of Central Asia.

And unlike Genghis, he did not have one people to lead to military triumphs, but had to weld together a successful army from a bewildering mass of different, often fractious, nationalities. By the time he faced the Ottoman Sultan Bayazid I on the battlefield in 1402, his soldiers came from the length and breadth of his empire, from Armenia to Afghanistan, Samarkand to Siberia.

Overcoming these disadvantages was one thing. More striking and startling by far was the fact that Tamerlane was severely disabled in his right side.

At birth he was given the name Timur, meaning iron, which later gave rise to the pejorative Persian version, Timur-i-lang (Timur the lame), after a devastating injury he suffered to both right limbs in his youth. From there it was only a slight corruption to Tamburlaine and Tamerlane, the names by which he is better known in the West.

Such a physical disability, at a time when martial skills were a prerequisite of political power, would have been a crushing blow for most men.

The young Tamerlane would have known the local proverb “only a hand that can grasp a sword may hold a sceptre”. Self-advancement in this brutal world was inconceivable without excelling in hand-to-hand combat and mounted archery.

The sources leave us in no doubt about the injury, although there is uncertainty over exactly how it occurred. It probably happened in about 1363, when Tamerlane was serving as a mercenary for the Khan of Sistan in Khorasan, in what is today the Dasht-i-Margo (“desert of death”) in south-west Afghanistan.

Another source – the extremely hostile Ibn Arabshah, a Syrian chronicler from the 15th Century – says a watchful shepherd spied Tamerlane prowling about his flock of sheep, smashed his shoulder with one well-directed arrow and loosed off another into his hip for good measure.

“Mutilation was added to his poverty and a blemish to his wickedness and fury,” writes the Syrian with a contemptuous flourish.

Clavijo, the Spanish ambassador who visited Samarkand in 1404, records how Tamerlane encountered a large party of horsemen from Sistan, who slaughtered many of his men.

“Him too they knocked off his horse, wounding him in the right leg, of which wound he has remained lame all his life (whence his name of Timur the Lame); further he received a wound in his right hand, so that he has lost the little finger and the next finger to it.”

A Soviet archaeological team led by Mikhail Gerasimov opened Timur’s exquisite tomb in Samarkand in 1941 and found that he was a “lame”, well-built man of about 5ft 7in.

An injury to his right leg, where the thighbone had merged with his kneecap, left it shorter than the left, hence the pronounced limp referred to in his scornful nickname.

When walking, he would have dragged his right leg, and his left shoulder was found to be unnaturally higher than the right. Further wounds were discovered to his right hand and elbow.

Image captionThe Gur Emir Mausoleum in Samarkand holds Tamerlane’s tomb

For his 14th Century enemies, such as the Ottoman emperor and the rulers of Baghdad and Damascus, Tamerlane’s lameness provided an easy opportunity to sneer – but mockery was easier than beating him in battle.

Even Arabshah, his fiercest critic, acknowledged that he was “mighty in strength and courage”, a “spirited and brave” leader who “inspired awe and obedience”.

One can sense the great 18th Century historian Edward Gibbon almost warming to Tamerlane, whose ferocious military genius has never really received its historical due:

“The nations which he vanquished exercised a base and impotent revenge; and ignorance has long repeated the tale of calumny, which had disfigured the birth and character, the person, and even the name, of Tamerlane.

“Yet his real merit would be enhanced, rather than debased, by the elevation of a peasant to the throne of Asia; nor can his lameness be a theme of reproach, unless he had the weakness to blush at a natural, or perhaps an honourable, infirmity.”

By the time he died, en route to war with the Ming emperor of China in 1405, Tamerlane was undefeated on the battlefield after 35 years of constant campaigning.

Rarely can any man, let alone an aspiring world conqueror, have overcome physical disability with such terrifying ease, as hundreds of thousands of Asians, brutally slaughtered and decapitated, discovered to their cost.

Justin Marozzi is the author of Tamerlane: Sword of Islam, Conqueror of the World http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-20538810

Hogarth to Vagabondiana Examining Two visualisations of disability in C18TH by Simon Jarrett

September 16, 2017 by richard

Hogarth to Vagabondiana by Simon Jarrett


We are going to look today at two visualisations of disability in the eighteenth century, firstly from the artist William Hogarth in the middle of the century and then in a book from 1817 called Vagabondiana, by John Thomas Smith, which took a rather nostalgic look back at the London street beggars from the end of the eighteenth century, using sketches and potted life histories.

There was a very high prevalence of physical disability in this period: as well as being born disabled, often through a lack of obstetric care during birth, you could also become disabled through a large number of disabling diseases, accidents caused by carriages and horses in the teeming streets, dangerous workplaces, potholed streets and collapsing buildings. Of course there were also many disabled soldiers and sailors from the numerous wars of the period. The playwright John Gay, author of the Beggar’s opera, warned people to be careful when walking round Lincolns Inn Field at night lest they trip over the crutches of the many hundreds of beggars that gathered there.

I hope to show not only the often ingenious types of mobility aid that were used as technological fixes for the many who needed them, most of whom were very poor and therefore needed to fashion aids from the most basic of resources, but also the moral and symbolic meanings that these objects carried for the eighteenth century British public, which framed their understanding of and response to disability. You will notice that it is only at the end of the century that any form of wheeled mobility methods of transport start to emerge – the most simple explanation for this is that until then it was only the centres and major streets of large cities such as London that were paved – the other streets and alleys were highly congested and obstacle-strewn dirt roads, that would turn to mud at the first sign of any rain, making small-sized wheeled transport virtually impossible. The later extension of paving across a wider area brought about an increase in use of wheels, as we shall see.


We begin with William Hogarth, who may be familiar to many of you, who was a great artistic chronicler of the 18th century’s everyday events and ordinary life before the age of photography. He is perhaps most famous for his ‘morality’ tales, such as the Harlots Progress, the Rakes progress, Marriage la Mode and Idleness and Industry, in each of which series of paintings young people fall into a life of vice and immorality, and endure terrible consequences for doing so. Despite being a conservative figure both in political and moral terms, Hogarth showed a great empathy with the people of London and everyday London life, and often displayed a sneaking regard for the vice, drunkenness and sexual immorality he was ostensibly denouncing.


Here is a print you may know: Gin Lane, which depicts the appalling consequences of the cheap gin-drinking craze that afflicted the poor parts of London for about 40 years, causing tens of thousands of deaths and desperate misery and poverty. You may be less familiar with its companion piece, Beer Street, which depicts the virtuous consequences of drinking good old British beer – virtually a religious and political duty for the English at this time.


In Gin Lane we can see Hogarth’s portrayal of abject misery and moral collapse. The baby falls to its death from the arms of its paralytically drunk, semi-clothed mother. With its famous motif ‘Drunk for a penny, dead drink for tuppence, we see buildings collapse – collapse and falling over are an important indicator of moral collapse which you will see in many of Hogarth’s paintings – and the only buildings which are stable are the pawnbrokers, the undertakers and of course the gin distillery. Bearing in mind this idea of collapse and instability being associated with moral degradation, look at this group here in the background – a mass brawl is breaking out and it consists of disabled people attacking each other with their sticks and crutches – you can see one to the edge of the brawl about to go over backwards desperately clinging onto his crutch. Here Hogarth is associating the idea of disability – the inability to stand on your own two feet if you like – with moral disorder and decay.  If we then look at Beer Street you will see the complete opposite of Gin Lane. Comfortably overweight and prosperous men suck on their pipes and quaff their ale, fondle their alluring, key-dangling women. The buildings stand proud, particularly the brewery with its beautifully balanced barrel hanging from it – the only building that is crumbling, in contrast to Gin Lane, is the unused pawnbrokers. If you drink good British beer, life will be good and trade and commerce will prosper, in contrast to that dreadful foreign import of Gin, or Geneva as it was known. Note, however, that in the depiction of Beer Street there is not one stick or crutch to be seen. In a prosperous, moderate, balanced, well ordered society, the body is not afflicted with the diseases of poverty and immorality – everything is balanced, people stand on their own two feet. In this way, the stick, crutch or other sorts of mobility aid could symbolise some loss of human status, a loss of that ability to order yourself, a prop to just about cling on to your status.


A stick or crutch signified a move away from full human status towards a more intermediate status, and the same process could happen the other way. An animal with a stick could indicate a lower species moving towards human status. This drawing is from Edward Tyson’s influential book from 1699 in which he described a young chimpanzee that had been brought from Angola in Southern Africa. Hogarth would almost certainly have read this book. There was much speculation as to whether there might be an intermediate species between apes and humans, or even some types of ape that might be a new species of human. The chimpanzee, or Pygmie as it was known at the time, was a particular object of speculation. Tyson concluded that it was not a form of human, but that it did have characteristics that closely resembled humans, suggesting that it might be an intermediate species, one of which was the ability to walk on two legs. In fact chimpanzees can’t do this, like other apes they apply their knuckles to aid their walking and therefore use all four limbs, but Tyson concluded that his Chimp would be able to walk if only it wasn’t feeble and ill from the long journey it made (it died after several weeks). However, being a scientist dedicated to accuracy, he could only bring himself to portray the chimp walking with the aid of a stick – this both acknowledged that Tyson had never actually seen it walk on two legs, but also symbolised the intermediary status between human and animal that he believed his Pygmie had.


Hogarth picked up on this and frequently portrayed animals tottering towards human status by getting onto their hind legs, just as he depicted humans tottering away from their status by having to use artificial aids to do what was seen as the fundamental human task of walking. Here, 1745, in his portrayal of his friend Lord George Graham, an admiral of the British navy, he depicts a series of slippery identities – Lord George Graham out of uniform and without his wig, the girlish cabin boy, the relatively high-status black drummer and last of course the dog, standing on his hind legs, and wearing a wig.


Picture10HPicture11ere in Southwark Fair 1732, a typical Hogarth portrayal of a riotous, disorderly London scene, you may just be able to spot this small dog striding in a very human like way across the picture with the aid of a stick. In such a disorderly world, Hogarth is telling us, such a thing would be no surprise.


The association of the stick with disorder and lesser human status can be seen in Hogarth’s Noon,1738, which depicts the coming together of two widely different sections of London’s community. On one side the disorderly but jolly native Londoners (one of whom is black interestingly) who are coming out of the ale house, the man fondling the woman’s breasts, she becoming so distracted that she spills her hot pie gravy onto the bawling baker’s boy, who in turn drops his wares onto the floor where they are hoovered up by a hungry young girl. Opposite them, coming out of church of course, are a group of austere, earnest French Huguenots, protestant refugees from religious persecution in France who have prospered in London and who Hogarth clearly sees as a rather po-faced, pretentious, miserable lot. Note that here he uses the stick in two ways – first in the rather affected gentleman it is purely an ostentatious, luxury fashion item, with no practical purpose. But notice that there is also a rather obnoxious child, dressed in the wig, frock coat and stockings of an adult. A child dressed as a man, just like an animal imitating a man, needs a stick to support it, once again the stick or mobility aid drawing our attention to intermediate status.


Which brings us to Hogarth’s Election series, a group of paintings satirising the abject corruption and mob-violence of the Whig/Tory political conflict that raged throughout the century. Here, in ‘The Polling’,1758, a disabled war veteran is trying to cast his vote. He has lost both hands, and on his left arm he has a hook. He has also lost his right leg, and has a wooden leg in its place. What is happening is that pompous lawyers are debating whether it is acceptable for him to swear the necessary pre-voting oath by laying a hook on the bible rather than a hand. While his vote is denied, behind him a group of enfeebled, demented, semi-conscious and idiotic people are lined up to vote, their hands guided onto the ballot papers. Clearly Hogarth is satirising electoral corruption, but he is also introducing the concept of the deserving disabled – the war hero, who has sacrificed his body in the service of his country, is denied and excluded, while the feeble minded, the non-deserving disabled, are indulged. Note his heroic posture, front foot thrust forward and his wooden leg firmly supporting him, his handless arms heroically thrust back. He uses no stick or crutch to balance himself, he can stand on his own two feet, even if one of them is wooden. We see something similar in this further painting from the election series, ‘Chairing the members’ where the candidates are chaired through the streets of Oxford by their respective supporting mobs, one of them looking as if he is possibly about to join the ranks of the disabled himself (note the recurring tumbling/collapse motif again) But note this man here, another disabled war veteran, about to lay into his political opponent with a cudgel. Again we see the heroic posture and stance, his weight firmly on his wooden leg, no supporting stick or crutch, and fully engaged in the action and everyday life. Note also that his opponent clearly does not think it necessary to go easy on him because he has a disability.


This placement of people with disabilities at the heart of everyday life can also be seen here in this depiction of a cockfight,1759, and the group of rowdy gamblers and cock fight enthusiasts. At the heart of it all is a blind man – actually representing the real life figure of Lord Albemarle.


He has an almost saintly, religious air, but note his vulnerability as the man next to him craftily pinches money from his winnings laid out in his leather pouch before him. To the side of the picture we see a man who is both physically disabled and deaf, sporting his crutch while his servant shouts a commentary on the cock fight into his ear through an ear trumpet. Multiple disabilities were not an insurmountable obstacle to being out and about and at the heart of the community – there was always some ingenious technological fix.

Picture18 Marriage Al La Mode Plate1

Here is the first plate of Marriage a la Mode Plate 1, Hogarth’s morality tale about the marriage between the feckless son of an aristocratic father and the equally feckless daughter of a nouveau riche merchant. This is a marriage of convenience, the idle ancient aristocratic family have squandered their wealth and need a fresh injection of cash, the merchant needs the elevated social status to go with his newly acquired wealth. The family tree of the Lord is displayed at his side, to demonstrate the noble lineage of his family, but next to it is propped his crutch – a very finely crafted and velvet-topped crutch – to portray the physical and moral degeneration of his family. His right leg, bandaged, rests of a footstool, indicating that disabling disease of over-indulgence, gout.

Picture18Marriage Al La Mode Plate 6 1755


Plate 6 Marriage A La Mode 1755. If we move now to the final tragic scene of the series, the countess sprawls dying in her chair, having committed suicide, unable to bear the news of the death of her lover, the appropriately named lawyer Silvertongue, who has been hung for murdering her husband the count, after he discovered their affair. Her child, probably a boy, is held to her face for a final kiss, as her father prudently removes the gold marriage ring from her finger to use another day.


An everyday story of 18th century folk, but look closely at the child – here on his leg you will see callipers, indicating that he is disabled, and here on his left cheek is a black spot, indicating syphilis. The child has suffered for the moral degradation of his parents, and they have passed disease and disability to him. Incidentally, also note here the idiot servant, being berated by the apothecary for having haplessly bought the poison which the countless has used to kill herself. One clue, of many, to his idiocy, is his wrongly buttoned servant’s livery.  The painting is full of disability motifs.

AN00016648_001_l Industry and idleness Hogarth

Here, above, is a plate from the ‘industry and idleness’ series, which charts the lives of an industrious and an idle apprentice. The industrious apprentice works hard, marries his master’s daughter and becomes London’s mayor. The idle apprentice is seduced by gambling, promiscuity and crime and ends life on the gallows. A straightforward morality tale. Here we see the industrious apprentice celebrating his marriage to his master’s daughter, and a collection of beggars, including a beggar band, gather at their door, hoping for celebratory gifts.  Here on the left is ‘Philip in a tub’, a known character from the London streets. Philip had no legs, and mobilised himself by sitting in a wooden tub or bowl and then using two short crutches to slide himself


along. This form ofPicture20 mobilisation was common for people without legs, and they were nicknamed ‘Billies in Bowls’ in the rich slang of the time. He is selling ballads, a common form of employment for disabled beggars, similar to selling the Big Issue today. Note how Hogarth has captured his incredibly powerful upper arms, developed through pushing himself using the crutches, [slide 20] reminiscent of David Weir, Britain’s fine Paralympian athlete.Picture21 Dave the Weir Wolf

And finally from Hogarth here is the fitting end of the idle apprentice, who is brought to Tyburn to be hung for his crimes before the huge crowds that gathered there on execution days. The character of interest to us is another disabled war veteran, here at the back of the crowd.

Picture21 Idle Apprentice Excecuted at Tyburn 1747

His head bandaged, he rests his mutilated leg on an upside-down V shaped wooden support with a curve built in to take his knee. From the top of the upside-down V extends a crutch which tucks under his armpit. I am not sure how he would move with this, but my guess is that he would hop with his left foot and then swing forward the contraption supporting his right side. The ingenuity of this adaptive technology to accommodate his particular disability is striking – and it is course fashioned at virtually no cost from a piece of wood.

Moving forward half a century from Hogarth to John Thomas Smith, we encounter an array of street beggars, many of them disabled, and beautifully sketched in his publication Vagabondiana of 1817.

Picture22 John Thomas Smith 1817

Smith, known as ‘Antiquity Smith’ was an antiquarian dedicated to preserving the fading past, and he published this in the belief that beggars would disappear from London streets in the wake of new legislation which would move them from the street to institutions such as workhouses, as part of the moral and physical clean-up of London which occurred with evangelical zeal in the 1790s and early 1800s. He could afford therefore to be quite sentimental and nostalgic about these characters, as any threat they might once have posed had now disappeared. [slide 24] This first image symbolises this change, as we quite literally ‘see the backs of’ three disabled beggars as they leave the town for the workhouse on its outskirts.

Picture22 Appeal of the dog 1Picture22 Appeal of dog 2

Once again the dog appears, performing a threefold function, much as they do for street beggars today: companion or friend to the often isolated beggar, magnet to the public to attract extra donations and, if the beggar is disabled, guide or assistant. This first dancing dog – able to stand on his own two feet – was known as the ‘the real learned French dog Bob’ who would dance to solicit donations as his blind master played the barrel organ. The second dog, holding the begging bowl, would whine pitifully when its master called out ‘pray pity the blind’. Both of these dogs would also have acted as guides for their masters.

Picture22 Usefulness of the dog

Here is an even more functional disability helper dog. The beggar here is John McNully, an Irishman whose legs were crushed by a log and who ended up on the London streets. He got himself two dogs, known imaginatively as Rover and Boxer, and trained them to pull him on a small sledge. Again this was a common mobility adaptation, and brought into being the slang term ‘sledge beggar’. The two dogs were apparently such an attraction that they doubled McNully’s takings. It was said that when he would get drunk on the generous proceeds of a day’s begging, Rover and Boxer would unerringly drag the comatose McNully back to his lodgings, even finding a diversionary route when they were blocked by street repairs.

Picture24 Goya Yo lo he visto en Paris 1824-28


This had now become a popular mode of disabled transport, as usable paved streets proliferated in cities, as this sketch by Goya – ‘Yo lo he visto en Paris’ (I saw it in Paris) from the 1820s indicates.

Picture25 Jewish Beggar with cart

And here is a Jewish beggar, in a wheeled cart, who was pulled (by human helpers) to various locations around Petticoat Lane to solicit donations. His venerable appearance, Smith remarked, meant that Christians as well as Jews were happy to donate to him. Inevitably a slang term emerged to describe this form of disability transport – it was a go-kart, an expression we still use today.  And so the representations go on – a beggar who solicited donations at Poets Corner at Westminster Abbey, his cleverly targeted market the intellectual sensitive types that would pass by in that area – note that unlike the war veterans he does use crutches to support himself as well as his wooden leg. This may well have been through pure physical necessity, but also he is presenting himself in what has been called the ‘rhetoric of pity’ to draw attention to his afflictions. Others pooled together to present a combination of physical and social misfortunes. The blind beggar stands with the physically disabled beggar, his cane indicating his blindness. (White canes were not introduced until after World War I by the way). He was a British soldier who had been blinded in Gibraltar but chose to present himself as foreign, calling out in an indeterminate accent ‘de money, de money, go very low too.’ His calculation was that the double misfortune of being blind and not being British would attract additional generosity.

Picture26 Poets corner woith BeggarPicture27 Pooling Disabilities

The opposite approach was taken by this black beggar James Johnstone, a former sailor who became disabled in the course of duty and ended up on the streets. Note that as well as the crutch and stick he displays himself with a model ship on his head.

Picture28 Black Sailor Beggar

This was a model of the suitably patriotic HMS Nelson that he had made himself, and he would pass by people’s windows ducking and raising his head to make it look as if it was riding the waves. He would also sing patriotic sailor songs such as ‘the wooden walls of England.’ His presentation aimed to show that as a black disabled beggar, he was a patriotic black British man, who had served his country, and was not to be feared or despised. This was a self-presentation as a deserving disabled person.

Picture29 blind beggar with stick and childPicture30 Blind Beggar with stick


Blind beggars as well as dogs also used child guides, who had a reputation derived from a long history of ‘trickster’ stories of being mischievous and deceitful and just as capable of tricking their blind masters as helping them – note the mischievous expression of the child in this drawing.  Or they would negotiate the teeming streets of London with ever-longer canes – the blind beggar in this print is described as ‘beating the kerbstones with his cane’ as he walked.


Picture30 Multiple impairments with aids

And finally, note just once more the ingenuity of design fashioned from the most basic of resources to provide adaptive solutions to complex disabilities. Here a beggar with two amputations to the lower legs at different heights rests his knees on two differently-sized wooden blocks to give him balance and mobilises himself with two sticks.

So to finish, in an age where notions of disability were at times closely linked to Enlightenment fears about order and disorder and political instability, and where the nature and origin of your disability could determine whether you were seen as a deserving or undeserving disabled person, we should not forget the sheer ingenuity with which disabled people negotiated a complex world and ensured that they remained very much a part of it.

Simon Jarrett   simonj@jarr.demon.co.uk    Birkbeck University of London  Research Supported by Welcome Trust