‘A plentiful crop of cripples made by all this progress’: Disability, Artificial Limbs and Working-Class Mutualism in the South Wales Coalfield, 1890-1948’

Type Article
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)708-727
Number of pages20
JournalSocial History of Medicine
Issue number4
Early online date07 Apr 2014
Publication statusPublished - 2014
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Historians of orthopaedics, artificial limbs and disability have devoted a great deal of attention to children and soldiers but have neglected to give sufficient space in their studies to industrial workers, the other patient group that has been identified as crucial to the development of these areas. Furthermore, this attention has led to an imbalanced focus on charitable and philanthropic activities as the main means of assistance and the neglect of a significant part of the voluntary sphere, the labour movement. This article, focusing on industrial south Wales, examines the efforts of working-class organisations to provide artificial limbs and a range of other surgical appliances to workers and their family members in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It finds that a distinctive, labourist conception of disability existed which envisaged disabled workers as an important priority and one to which significant time, effort and resources were devoted.


  • disability, artificial limbs, labour movement, mutualism, South Wales