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date: 19 February 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Disability history and social history of medicine are two subfields that share many common topics and sources but that approach them very differently. For medical historians, disability takes center stage as a problem that requires fixing, and the “victims” are primarily patients. For disability historians, disability suggests not just the person or practitioner, but also a unique understanding of all the elements, including politics, economics, and culture, that shape relationships for the disabled. Following a brief history of each subfield, two examples are presented—responses to epidemics and the idea of cure—to discuss how scholars can be in more productive conversation. As is demonstrated here, disability is not just a topic to be studied, but rather a tool of analysis. While the distinctive roots and purposes of the two subfields ensure that they will always be fundamentally incompatible, they can, and should, engage in productive conversation.

Keywords: medicine, theory, historiography, epidemics, cure, eugenics, social history of medicine

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