Medieval Charitable Institutions and Intellectual Impairment c.1066–1600
By Timothy Stainton
Journal on Developmental Disabilities, Vol.8:2 (2001)
Abstract: This article examines the question of the concept of intellectual impairment in medieval Britain through a case study of early charitable institutions and their utilisation by persons with intellectual impairments. An analysis of literature on medieval charitable institutions suggests that a popular concept of intellectual impairment did exist and that some people with intellectual impairments were found in these facilities, primarily almshouses; however, this support was neither extensive nor based on any medical or psychological construction of intellectual impairment. Nor is there evidence of any specific concern with the “holy innocent.” Rather, support was on the basis of poverty and was not motivated by any specific concern with intellectual impairment. The need for further research is highlighted and a suggestion is made that the dominant focus of research on medical constructions and institutions specific to intellectual impairment is misguided.