History and Memorial

This page features disability news on History and Memorial from the Debrief Library. See also news on other subjects.


A new book on Prosthetics and Assistive Technology in Ancient Greece and Rome. (Dec, Cambridge University Press)

From the wheelchair-using Black Panther to the ‘cripple suffragette’ – 10 heroes of the disabled rights movement. (Dec, the Guardian)

Reader's Block a book on the history of reading differences. (Oct, Combined Academic Publishers)

50th Anniversary of the Independent Living Movement (Aug, ENIL)

Wheelchairs Through Time A visual history of the wheelchair: a look through thousands of years covering palanquins, tricycles, wheelbarrows, thrones, and much more. (Aug, Wayland's Workshop)

State of the Field: Disability History. An overview of many strengths of a growing field, and reflections on some of the gaps, which include:

“As impressive as disability scholarship on activism is, its lack of chronological depth obscures the full range of disabled people's political actions. Most studies focus on the last one hundred years, especially the period after the emergence of the modern DRM in the 1970s. This limits our understanding of disabled people's activism by implying that their engagement in meaningful political action is a relatively recent phenomenon, concerned primarily with the fight for disability rights. Yet, disabled people have a longer and richer history of activism than this. From factory reform to women's suffrage, they have fought for many causes, often taking up prominent roles in the process.” (Jul, History)

Global Stamp Issues a book exploring postage stamps marking the United Nations International Year of Disabled People, 1981. (Jun, Digital Disability) See a write up and samples on Disability Arts Online.

Review of Hearing Happiness: Deafness Cures in History “a spell-binding book of research and stories” (May, H-Disability)

Complicating Disability On the Invisibilization of Chronic Illness throughout History (Feb, Playtpus)

The Historians magazine: The LGBTQ+ Edition 6 has an article on Disability and LGBT History, seeking out stories that show the intersections. (Feb)


Romeu Sassaki died at 84 years old a vital figure working on inclusion in Brazil. (Links in Portuguese, Sep, Terra) See more about his 60 years of work on inclusion and an online meeting with tributes.

In Brazil, the Museum of Inclusion's exhibition on Fights, Rights and Conquests of persons with disabilities. (in Portuguese, Museum of Inclusion)


Maoism and mental illness: psychiatric institutionalization during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. (Aug, History of Psychiatry)


Sheikh Rafaat: A Genius in Meaning-Based Recitation of Quran. One of the blind men among the brilliant qaris of Egypt (people who recite the Quran). (Sep, International Quran News Agency)

Sheikh Imam: Voice of Dissent Profile on a blind oud player his music and politics from the 60s-80s and how they resonate through history and the Middle East today. (May, KC Network)


A book review of an interdisciplinary account of deaf history in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. (Jul, H-Disability)


An Early Medieval Prosthetic Hand and what it might show us about violence, community and care. (Sep, History Workshop)


Uncovering a life deemed “unworthy of life”. “Why the Story of Hans Heinrich Festersen—Gay, Disabled, and Murdered by the Nazis—Matters” (Nov, Zocalo Public Square)


Discussion of a research and community project that took Multidisciplinary Approaches to Disability from late 9th to early 20th Century:

“the “Disability before Disability” project recognized the vital relationship between disability communities in the past, present, and future. [...] The project provides representation of people who lived with physical, mental, and/or sensory differences across Iceland’s history not simply as a homogenous group defined by one common experience but as individuals with their own unique lives and stories. Responsible historical disability representation affects both society as a whole and disability communities, with the latter having a valuable opportunity to see their experiences reflected in the past.” (May, Scandinavian Journal of Disability Research)


Maeve McCormack Nolan obituary: Celebrated artist and disability advocate. (May, Irish Times)

New Zealand

Why doesn’t every New Zealander know about Eve Rimmer? “She had a glittering international sports career and became a brave advocate for paraplegic rights, but Eve Rimmer is still largely unknown to the country she represented.” (Dec, The Spinoff)


A book review of The Broken Years: Russia's Disabled War Veterans, 1904-1921. The book argues that the rights of disabled people as a minority were born out of the 1917 February revolution. (Dec, H-Net)

Sierra Leone

Recaptive number 11,407: Poet Raymond Antrobus traces the lost story of a deaf man freed from slavery. (Oct, BBC)

United Kingdom

Disabled people’s activism on exhibition at the People's History Museum (Dec, Disability Arts Online)

Ebooks of Paul Hunt's writings. “Paul Hunt was one of the founders of the Disabled People's Movement in Britain, and one of the first activists to argue for the social model of disability.” (Oct, GMCDP)

A review of Beholding Disability in Renaissance England a book which argues that “by focusing on disability in Renaissance texts we can collapse barriers between us and the past, while at the same time gain new perspectives on both historical and contemporary perceptions of the disabled body.” (Sep, H-Disability)

Book review of Shakespeare and Disability Studies, a book which argues that a disability studies view should not focus just on disabled characters but rather ‘theater as a “social phenomenon” in which both disabled and nondisabled bodyminds engage with one another and the text.’ (Aug, Disability Studies Community)

Book review of Those They Called Idiots: The Idea of the Disabled Mind from 1700 to the Present Day. “The conflation of race and intelligence is vividly documented in this volume. The long and complex history of ideas that have bound these concepts together helps us understand today’s deeply institutionalized racism as well as the entrenched we/they ableism of our educational and social service institutions.” (Aug, Disability Studies Community)

Dr Peter Scott-Morgan dies: Tributes to world's first 'cyborg' ‘And when I say “Cyborg”, I don’t just mean any old cyborg, you understand, but by far the most advanced human cybernetic organism ever created in 13.8 billion years.’ (Jun, Metro.co.uk)

‘The lady without legs or arms’: how an artist shattered Victorian ideas about disability. (May, the Guardian)

The Jewish Deaf Association launch new website: Jewish Deaf History (London) discussion of the history and website. (May, Limping Chicken)

The 1921 census is a snapshot of a post-war Britain where disability suddenly became visible: "Poignant, defiant notes by men living with war wounds show the roots of the ongoing fight for disability rights taking hold". (Jan, Inews)

United States

How should we reckon with history’s uncomfortable truths about disability? “My research found that eugenics, a theory popular from the late nineteenth century until World War II, had an early but profound influence on educational policy that lingers to this day in the rationale for, and funding of, educational provisions for students with disability.” (Dec, Monash)

Disability Dialogues a book on the “Advocacy, Science, and Prestige in Postwar Clinical Professions” (Dec, Johns Hopkins University Press)

Deaf Printers Pages “preserves the last of many generations of Deaf people who learned printing in school and worked at local and national newspapers around the country. From the 1970s-2000 more than 125 Deaf people found employment at The Washington Post.”

Disability Culture So Far: “A Movement in Milestones” – highlights from disability arts. (Oct, Art in America)

Carl Croneberg, Explorer of Deaf Culture, Dies at 92. Croneberg “helped write the first comprehensive dictionary of American Sign Language and was the first to outline the idea of Deaf culture as a distinct part of society and one worth studying”. (Aug, New York Times)

The Untold Origins of the Black & Blind Musician (Video feature, Jul, PBS Origins)

Crip/Mad Archive Dances: Arts-Based Methods in and out of the Archive (May, Theatre)

A new book: Work Requirements: Race, Disability and the Print Culture of Social Welfare: “yoking the project of social welfare to the consolidation of a work society and powerfully revealing their shared entanglement in racialized fantasies about the ‘able’ body.” (Jul, Duke University Press)

The upsetting online market for historic asylum patient records. “These files contained details such as physicians’ notes on diagnoses, test results, and therapy notes, in addition to accounts of violent treatments like electrotherapy and hydrotherapy” (Jul, Slate)

Life at a Distance: Archiving Disability Cultures of Remote Participation. “Autistic self-advocacy, for instance, famously emerged in the 1990s from internet discussion boards, which allowed autistic adults to connect and form communities without having to socialize in person (Sinclair 2010). Even earlier, in the 1940s and 50s, institutionalized disabled people used technologies such as sending quilt patches to their families (as forms of storytelling), while disabled people living at home with families shared tips and tricks in print newsletters for making houses more accessible” (Jun, Just Tech)

Google Doodle Honors Disability Rights Activist Stacey Park Milbern (May, CNET)

Inside the Pentagon’s shameful effort to draft mentally disabled men to fight in Vietnam (May, Task & Purpose)

The Helen Keller Exorcism. Brilliant rollercoaster-ride of an episode, remembering Helen Keller and her myths today. (complete with transcript, Mar, Radiolab) See also a feature on Helen Keller's Legacy (Teen Vogue).

Neil Marcus, Whose Art Illuminated Disability, Dies at 67 See more about Neil in the introduction and the last newsletter. (Dec, NYT)

The letter that Helen Keller wrote after she visited the Empire State Building.

“I will concede that my guides saw a thousand things that escaped me from the top of the Empire Building, but I am not envious. For imagination creates distances and horizons that reach to the end of the world. It is as easy for the mind to think in stars as in cobble-stones.” (Jan, Letters of Note)