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date: 19 February 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Case records examined here are those of inmates in two public institutions for the insane in colonial Victoria, Australia, and in Auckland, New Zealand, between 1870 and 1910. In the international field of mental health studies and histories of psychiatry, intellectual disability has been the subject of detailed historical inquiry and forms part of the critical discussion about how institutions for the “insane” housed a range of inmates in the nineteenth century. Yet the archival records of mental hospitals have rarely been examined in any sustained way for their detail about the physically disabled or those whose records denote bodily difference. References to the physical manifestations of various forms of intellectual or emotional disability, as well as to bodily difference and “deformity,” were part of the culture of the colonial institution, which sought to categorize, label, and ascribe identities to institutional inmates.

Keywords: defective, deformity, bodily difference, intellectual disability, normality, casebooks, colonial language, Victoria, Australia, Auckland, New Zealand

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