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date: 16 February 2019

Abstract and Keywords

A common claim in disability studies is that industrialization has marginalized disabled people by limiting their access to paid employment. This claim is empirically weak and rests on simplified accounts of industrialization. Use of the British coal industry during the period 1780–1880 as a case study shows that reassessment of the effect of the Industrial Revolution is in order. The Industrial Revolution was not as detrimental to the lives of disabled people as has often been assumed. While utopian workplaces for disabled people hardly existed, industrial sites of work did accommodate quite a large number of workers with impairments. More attention therefore needs to be paid to neglected or marginalized features of industrial development in the theorization of disability. Drawing on historical research on disability in the industrial workplace will help scholars better understand the significance of industrialization to the lives of disabled people, both in the past and the present.

Keywords: Britain, coal mining, factories, nineteenth century, industrialization, Industrial Revolution, work

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