“In the resurrection, no weakness will remain”: Perceptions of disability in Christian Anglo-Saxon England
By Emma Brownlee
Archaeological Review from Cambridge, Vol.31:1 (2017)
Introduction: Disability studies in archaeology is a new and burgeoning area of research, springing from both a recent emphasis on the individuality of experiences in the past and a need to re-evaluate the role of disabled groups in the present. This paper will focus on perceptions of physical impairment in the later Anglo-Saxon period (c. 800–1066 AD).
This follows significant social changes of the seventh to eighth centuries: the conversion to Christianity, increasing urbanism, and the increasing stratification of social hierarchies. These will all have had an effect on how physical impairment was viewed. Focusing on the later Anglo-Saxon period therefore allows us to study the impact of these changes.
In addition, the increase in written documents at this time compared to the early Anglo-Saxon period means that it is possible to integrate different forms of evidence—historical, archaeological and osteological—in order to gain a more rounded view of disability and impairment. Most previous studies of this period have focused on a small sample of individuals, which are often the most unusual case studies and have little to tell us about broader attitudes to disability; a more comprehensive overview is required.
Top Image: A man on a crutch in St Albans Psalter, 12th century