UK 1913 Mental Deficiency Act

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Dr Lee Humber, having spent many years as a special educational needs teacher and a Diability Youth Work manager in north London, is a specialist on the historico-sociological approach to people with learning difficulties' expereince of employment. Humber's research seeks to strenghten both contemporary analysis of services for people with learning difficulities, and our historical understanding of the development of this docial grouping. He is currently exploring the special educational provison which began to develop which began to develop following passage of the 1870 Education Act and which provided a special education narrative informing the 1913 Mental Deficiency Act.


Other Podcasts by Lee Humber

Expert Explanations: IQ Testing


Online Resources

HANSARD Parliamentary Papers

"The Lunacy and Mental Deficiency Acts." British Medical Journal 2 (1913): p.1238


Indicative Reading

Binet, (1909) The experimental study of intelligence, Paris, Schleicher

Burt, C.L. (1935). The subnormal mind. London: Oxford University Press. Republished London: Oxford University Press, (1937).

Burt, C.L. (1937). The Backward Child. London: University of London Press. Republished (5th ed.) London: University of London Press, (1961).

Burt, C.L. (1925). The young delinquent. London: University of London. Republished and revised (3rd ed.) London: University of London Press, (1938); (4th ed.) Bickley: University of London Press, (1944)

Clarke, A., Tizard, B., (Eds) (1983) Child development and social policy; The life and work of Jack Tizard, London, The British Psychological Society

Gelb, S., (1986) ‘From moral imbecility to maladaptive behaviour: The social construction of educable mental retardation’, paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Education Research Association, April 18, 1986

Goodey, C., (2004) ‘Intellectual ability and speed of performance: Galen to Galton’, History of Sciences, (xliii).

Gould, S., (1996) The Mismeasure of Man, London, Norton

Hearnshaw, L., (1979). Cyril Burt: Psychologist, London, Hodder and Stoughton,

Jackson, M., (2000) The Borderland of Imbecility: Medicine, Society and the Fabrication of the Feeble Mind in Late Victorian and Edwardian England, Manchester, Manchester University Press

Jones, K., (1960) Mental Health and Social Policy 1845-1959, London, Routledge

MacKenzie, D., (1999) ‘Eugenics and the rise of mathematical statistics in Britain’, in Dorling, D., and Simpson, S., Statistics in society: The arithmetic of politics, Arnold, London

Rapley, M., (2004): The social construction of intellectual disability, Cambridge, CUP

Sutherland, G., (1984) Ability, merit and measurement: Mental testing and English education, 1880-1940, London, Clarendon

Thompson, E., (1967) ‘Time, work-discipline and industrial capitalism’, Past and Present, 38, 56-97

Thomson, M., (2000) The problem of mental deficiency: Eugenics, democracy and social policy in Britain, 1870-1959, London, Clarendon

Tizard, J., O’Connor N., (1956) The social problem of mental deficiency, London, Pergamon Press

Vygotsky, L., (1933) ‘Play and its role in the Mental Development of the Child’, Source: Voprosy psikhologii, 1966, No. 6, Translated: Catherine Mulholland, Online Version: Psychology and Marxism Internet Archive ( 2002.

Wright, D., Digby, A., (1996) From idiocy to mental deficiency: Historical perspectives on people with learning disabilities, London, Routledge



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