The Deaf and Dumb in the 19th Century:

An East Yorkshire study of children born deaf between 1840 and 1850 (inclusive)


This study aimed to examine the lives of children in Hull and East Yorkshire, who were born deaf, or became deaf during infancy, between 1840 and 1850, looking specifically for any family history of deafness (relating to their parents, siblings and their own offspring), and if their education affected their choice of occupations and how those occupations compared to those of their parents and hearing siblings.

The study used a range of sources to identify relevant children, including the 1851 and 1861 Census returns, a list of students at the Yorkshire institute for the deaf and dumb, people identified from any of the literature, and newspaper reports to assist in obtaining details of the lives of deaf-and-dumb people in general at that time.

Contemporary reports suggested that most deaf children were born to deaf parents, however this report demonstrates that this was not true, and agrees with the statistics from 30 Victorian deaf educational establishments in the UK, which found that less than 2% of children had two congenitally deaf parents.  Some contemporary literature also suggests the uneducated deaf would be unable to work, and therefore would spend their lives in the workhouse, however this report will argue that in most cases the occupations reflected those of their parents and/or hearing siblings, regardless of their education.

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