Historian Simon Jarrett talks about his research on disabled people’s history

Interview conducted for UKDHM 2021

I have spent many years working in projects with people with learning disabilities and people with autism. For the last 16 years I have been advising local authorities and NHS organisations on improving and setting up services.

I have a strong interest in the history of learning disability, particularly the pre-asylum era. I have just completed an MA in the History of Ideas at Birkbeck, University of London, including a dissertation called The moral economy of idiocy in the Old Bailey in the long eighteenth century. I am now working on a PhD, also at Birkbeck, called The road to Dr Down’s idiot asylum; the creation of the idea of intellectual disability c.1700-1867.

I was the web writer for an English Heritage web resource called Disability in Time and Place and am writing a book, also for English Heritage, on the history of disability in Britain. I write a column for the magazine Community Living on representations of learning disability in books, films and other media.

Read Simon’s Disability in Time and Place project on the Historic England website.