Announcement: 2020 Outstanding Book Award (DHA)

Kathleen Brian's picture

The Disability History Association (DHA) is delighted to announce the results of the 2020 Outstanding Book Award. The depth and breadth of the submissions, as well as of the individual works, are a testament to the continued vitality of Disability History and to the capacity of our field to expand the historical discipline more broadly. 


Congratulations and appreciation are due to Sarah Handley-Cousins (winner) and Jason Ellis (honorable mention), as well as to the communities that fostered their scholarship. 



Sarah Handley-Cousins, Bodies in Blue: Disability in the Civil War North (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2019).


Praise from the committee:


Bodies in Blue illustrates how war wounds cut across the conventional defining lines of disability to draw illness, invisible injuries and impediments, and emotional and mental trauma into the ranks of acquired disabilities. By focusing on not only individuals such as Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain but also groups of war-wounded men such as the Invalid Corps, Bodies in Blue surveys multiple manifestations of war-related disability in the post-Union United States. Handley-Cousin's book painstakingly analyzes unusual suspects as subjects of inquiry: rather than focus on amputees, she turns her attention to a wide variety of disabilities and impairments drawn from across the historical record of the Civil War and its aftermath. In the process, Bodies of Blue broadens and deepens the historical study of Americans with disabilities, thereby simultaneously expanding both American History and Disability History. Well-written and carefully worded, Bodies in Blue demonstrates historical research and writing at its best.”

“In Bodies in Blue, Handley-Cousins features Northern Civil War veterans’ voices to create a nuanced look at the role disability played in their lives and those of their families and friends during and after the war. Acutely aware of the hold the medical model has on conceptions of the history of bodies affected by the Civil War, Handley-Cousins anticipates and addresses medical model perspectives in an effort to help forward their argument, foregrounding the lived experience of military-related disability. Handley-Cousins’s work is written with sensitivity and detail that will interest the general public and academics alike.”


Honorable Mention

Jason Ellis, A Class by Themselves? The Origins of Special Education in Toronto and Beyond (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2019).


Praise from the committee:


“Ellis’s A Class by Themselves? provides readers with a clearly written, well-organized overview of the history of auxiliary or special education for disabled children in Toronto, Canada, public schools, in the early twentieth century. The study makes connections to other urban school trends in the US and will be of interest to academics who study education history, disability history, and the history of childhood. It will also be of interest to practitioners who teach in formal (such as classroom) and informal (such as museum) learning environments, particularly those who would like to learn more about the history of inclusion (and exclusion) in education and teaching.


A Class by Themselves? thoughtfully and meticulously combines historical evidence left by teachers and students, parents and psychologist, and civil servants of multiple sorts to detail the emergence and evolution of “auxiliary education” in Toronto during the first half of the twentieth century. Ellis shows how ongoing innovation and adaptation to historical conditions resulted in the expansion of academic and practical education for children with cognitive, mental, sensory, and even physical disabilities and impairments. As the identification of educational impediments grew and diversified, so did the type and number of opportunities provided by the Toronto school system for students with extraordinary needs. Ellis digs deep into institutional records left by educators and other professionals, skillfully coaxing details from pupil records that show how children and their parents often wielded their own agency and ability to negotiate school-centered social services. Using clear, tidy language, A Class by Themselves? draws together a wealth of historical perspectives, weaving them into a tightly-knit study of the origins of special education in North American schools.”



The Disability History Association 

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