The Problem of Mental Deficiency: Eugenics, Democracy, and Social Policy in Britain, c.1870-1959

Hardcover | January 1, 1998

byMathew Thomson

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This is the first detailed assessment of the development and implementation of social policy to deal with the problem of the `mentally deficient' in Britain between 1870 and 1959. Mathew Thomson analyses all the factors involved in the policy-making process, beginning with the politics of thelegislature and showing how the demands of central government were interpreted by local authorities, resulting in a wide and varied distribution of medical, institutional, and community care in different parts of the country. The efforts of health professionals, voluntary organizations and thefamilies themselves are considered, alongside questions about the influence of changing concepts of class, gender, and citizenship. The author queries the belief that the policy of segregation was largely unsuccessful, and reveals a hitherto unrecognized system of care in the community. He reframesour understanding of the campaign for sterilization and examines why British policy-makers avoided extremist measures such as the compulsory sterilization introduced in Germany and parts of the US during this period. Thomson shows that the problem of mental deficiency cannot be understood simply interms of eugenics but must also be considered as part of the process of adjusting to democracy in the twentieth century.

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This is the first detailed assessment of the development and implementation of social policy to deal with the problem of the `mentally deficient' in Britain between 1870 and 1959. Mathew Thomson analyses all the factors involved in the policy-making process, beginning with the politics of thelegislature and showing how the demands of c...

Mathew Thomson is a History Lecturer, University of Sheffield.

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:360 pages, 8.5 × 5.43 × 0.94 inPublished:January 1, 1998Publisher:Oxford University Press

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0198206925

ISBN - 13:9780198206927

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`If this detailed study does not provide as clear an account of the sterilization campaign as one might desire, its great strength lies in its careful portrayal of the continual rounds of conflicts and negotiations that underlay the treatment of the mentally deficient ... Thomson makes a goodcase that the very existence in Britain of so many competing groups prevented it from embracing the extremist eugenic measures of neighbouring states.'Angus McLaren, University of Victoria, EHR, Sept 99