Current research in Sociology of Disability has a tendency to assume that very little written in this area until the last 20 years. However, this is not always the case. In part the lack of awareness of older writing occurs because of the ease of computerized searching for recent references or a sense that newer is better. It also reflects the assumption that Sociology as a field has ignored either disability as a social phenomenon or treated it solely as a medical phenomenon.
While theorists and introductory textbooks have tended [and still tend] to ignore disability as a non-medical phenomenon and especially as a structured source of inequality, that does not mean that no attention was paid to disability in the earlier years. Rather, interest in disability from a sociological point of view exists as early as the late 1800s.
The purpose of this volume is to explore that literature, with an eye towards encouraging current scholars not to ask “the same old” questions but to use the older writings as a basis for revolutionary as well as evolutionary thinking. What do the older writings tell us about what questions we should be asking, and what research we should be doing, today?