Opening Closed Doors and Breaching High Walls: Some Approaches for Studying Intellectual Disability in Canadian History


  • Nic Clarke


Historians who have studied mental illness and intellectual disability have tended to focus, with some notable exceptions, on institutions and those who administered them, rather than on patients and their families. This emphasis on the asylum has given it a disproportionate place in the history of intellectual disability and mental illness. A number of possible paths are open to historians in adding the experiences of people with intellectual disabilities to the historical record. Some individuals with intellectual disabilities can be enabled to tell their own stories, or at least to provide some insight into their motivations and experiences. As well, many paths of investigation that may start within the confining walls of the asylum offer historians a chance to piece together the lives of people with intellectual disabilities outside the institutions built for their care and incarceration.






Research Notes