Autism in History: The Case of Hugh Blair of Borgue

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9780631220893: Autism in History: The Case of Hugh Blair of Borgue
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This engaging story of an eighteenth century Scottish laird whose brief arranged marriage was annulled on the grounds of his mental capacity - which seen through modern eyes can be identified as autism. It is a story of villainy and innocence, and provides a fascinating historical context to which the latest theories on autism are applied.

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"This is a comprehensive history, charting thinking, practice andtheories from the late 1930s to the present day . . . Recommended -a much-needed addition to the autism library." (CommunicationMagazine, 1 April 2011)

"I found this book utterly absorbing and utterly convincing. Therichness of historical detail - testimonies and actualinterrogations - and its telling hold one like a novel. The minutesifting of the evidence is in the best historico-clinicaltradition, weighing everything carefully, never overstating orpushing. The interest spreads in all directions - about the way thelaw, the culture, and ordinary people thought of mental incapacityor madness in the eighteenth century. I think Autism inHistory will be extremely valuable in many different ways."Oliver Sacks M.D. Author of Awakenings

"The authors guide us through the case with an expert hand, in abook written for a wide range of non-specialist readers. What'smore, the book constitutes a unique introduction to autism, presenting both its scientific and clinical aspects, as well as theperson and their social circumstances. A stimulating read."Infancia y Aprendizaje, vol 24(2), 2001.

"Rab Houston and Uta Frith provide a splendid case study ofprobably autism from eighteenth-century Scotland. Houston and Frithare to be congratulated in their synthesis of the evidence for HughBlair of Borgue being a case of autism in history. They have doneso in a manner and style that is as cautious as it is thorough."Stephen Jones, Norfolk Mental Health Care Trust, Social Historyof Medicine, vol 14 (2), 2001.

"This is a fascinating book." RH Campbell, Transactions, Vol75, 2001

"In presenting Hugh Blair, a member of the landowning class ineighteenth-century Scotland, Autism in History demonstratesa refreshing lack of squeamishness ... Although Houston and Frithconclude confidently that they are looking at a case of the samecondition we now call autism, they remain sensitive to the waysthat historical conditions could influence the perception orpresentation of the disorder. In addition, Houston and Frith amassconvincing data to show that Blair was, in fact, autistic. It mightbe possible to quibble with their retrospective diagnosis, but theymake a highly plausible case." Jonathan Sadowsky, CasteleAssociate Professor of Medical History, Case Western ReserveUniversity, Journal of the History of the Behavioural Sciences, Fall 2003

From the Back Cover:

This case study is the result of a unique collaboration between asocial historian and a cognitive scientist. It examines theenigmatic case of Hugh Blair, an eighteenth century Scottish'laird' or landowner, whose arranged marriage was annulled on thegrounds of his mental incapacity. Through an in-depth study of theevidence surrounding the case, the authors conclude that Blair, whowas classed at the time as a 'fool', was in fact autistic.


Writing in a lively and engaging style, the authors draw togetherwitness statements from court records with a wide range of otherdocumentation to set the sociohistoric scene for the case. Thisprovides a fascinating context to which the latest theories onautism are applied.


This book will not only intrigue both historians and psychologistsbut will also appeal to a wider audience for its study of thiscompelling and deeply affecting human story.

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