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Enabling the Great War: Ex-Servicemen, the Mixed Economy of Welfare and the Social Construction of Disability, 1899-1930

By Meaghan Melissa Marie Kowalsky

Abstract

Upwards of 750,000 British ex-servicemen returned home permanently disabled from the First World War. Dealing with the enormity of war time disability put great strain on medical and financial resources and forced the British government to reassess, and radically alter its responsibilities towards disability in Britain. The\ud crisis of war highlighted existing inadequacies in care for the disabled. The war prompted not only changes in social policy, but in societal attitudes towards impairment as a whole.\ud \ud This thesis will assess provisions for disabled ex-servicemen between the years 1899 and 1930. It will examine attitudes towards disability and argue that a social\ud understanding of disability can be found earlier in British society than has been hitherto suggested. The state, charity and medicine recognized that disability was not just a medical condition, but a social issue. Far from being exclusionary and discriminatory, policies aimed at disabled ex-servicemen were sensitive to the economic and social barriers which persons with impairment faced. These barriers included: discrimination; inaccessible public buildings and transport; poor employment options; unrealistic expectations placed on disabled persons to\ud `overcome' their impairments; and poverty. Whilst not denying the very real hardships that some men faced, or indeed the failure of some policies, the thesis will\ud posit that those who cared for disabled ex-servicemen, and disabled men themselves, held a more enlightened awareness towards disability than has been previously contended. Moreover, the state and charity discharged their responsibilities towards disabled men effectively. It is argued that disability issues during the years 1899 to\ud 1930 are critically important for not only furthering an understanding of the war and its aftermath, but for the larger study of disability history. A closer understanding of impairment during these years prompts a reassessment of current disability theory.\ud \u

Publisher: School of History (Leeds)
Year: 2007
OAI identifier: oai:etheses.whiterose.ac.uk:680

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