Child Disability and Prostheses in Nineteenth-Century Britain

Author(s): Charlotte Waller-Cotterhill

Year: 2018


Introduction of dedicated paediatric medicine, was an advancement arriving in Britain late compared to its neighbours such as France’s ‘Enfant Malades’ in 1802. Paediatric hospitals were a consequence of physicians' financial aspirations rather than falsely portrayed ‘community need’ (Lomax, 1998). Their establishment contradicted longstanding attitudes surrounding children as ‘incomplete beings…whom it was wasteful to devote attention to’ (Porter, 1989). Oddly, amputation saw children harness the same attention as adults, and despite being overused, crudely performed with poor survival rates and aftercare, evidence exists of child amputees surviving into adulthood and of child prostheses. This paper will discuss complicated beliefs surrounding paediatric care in nineteenth-century Britain, concentrating on archaeological evidence of prostheses available for juvenile amputees. It asks why, in a society with poor paediatric care, was amputation and prosthesis provisioned for? What sparked the changes to children’s healthcare which saw institutions such as Great Ormond Street Hospital, London, introduced in 1852? Analysis of Victorian prosthetic devices and medical procedures will help demonstrate that whilst children occupied the role of ‘society's future’, lingering attitudes, contributed to high infant mortality rates, overcrowded workhouses and an enduring class system. However, medical improvements and enlightenment, created an optimism, triggering a re-evaluation in paediatric healthcare.

Cite this Record

Child Disability and Prostheses in Nineteenth-Century Britain. Charlotte Waller-Cotterhill. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 443692)

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Spatial Coverage

min long: -11.074; min lat: 37.44 ; max long: 50.098; max lat: 70.845 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 19913