New book – Donna Trembinski, Illness and Authority: Disability in the Life and Lives of Francis of Assisi, University of Toronton Press, 2020.

Illness and Authority: Disability in the Life and Lives of Francis of Assisi, University of Toronton Press, 2020.

Illness and Authority examines the lived experience and early stories about St. Francis of Assisi through the lens of disability studies. This new approach re-centres Francis’s illnesses and infirmities and highlights how they became barriers to wielding traditional modes of masculine authority within both the Franciscan Order he founded and the church hierarchy. So concerned were members of the Franciscan leadership that the future saint was compelled to seek out medical treatment and spent the last two years of his life in the nearly constant care of doctors. Unlike other studies of Francis’s ailments, Illness and Authority focuses on the impact of his illnesses on his autonomy and secular power, rather than his spiritual authority.

From downplaying the comfort Francis received from music to disappearing doctors in the narratives of his life, early biographers worked to minimize the realities of his infirmities. When they could not do so, they turned the saint’s experiences into teachable moments that demonstrated his saintly and steadfast devotion and his trust in God. Illness and Authority explores the struggles that early authors of Francis’s vitae experienced as they tried to make sense of a saint whose life did not fit the traditional rhythms of a founder-saint.

  • Page Count: 272 pages
  • Dimensions: 6.2in x 1.0in x 9.1in

More information on the editor website


Round table – A roundtable conversation featuring Richard Godden, Jonathan Hsy, Cameron Hunt McNabb, and Kristina Richardson org by the by Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies “The future of Medieval Disability History” (link to the Youtube video)

A roundtable conversation featuring Richard Godden, Jonathan Hsy, Cameron Hunt McNabb, and Kristina Richardson
by the Arizona Center for Medieval & Renaissance Studies


The Future of Medieval Disability Studies

This roundtable discussion brings together four scholars of medieval disability studies: Richard Godden, Jonathan Hsy, Cameron Hunt McNabb, and Kristina Richardson. Our speakers will discuss the state of the field, and the ways in which we can imagine different, more inclusive, futures.

About the speakers

Richard H. Godden is an Assistant Professor in English at Louisiana State University. His current book project, Material Subjects: An Ecology of Prosthesis in Medieval Literature and Culture, focuses on the material objects with which medieval bodies were so intimate, and explores the intersections of disability and the agency of things in the Middle Ages. He is co-editor, with Asa Mittman, of Monstrosity, Disability, and the Posthuman in the Medieval and Early Modern World (Palgrave, 2019), and also of The Open Access Companion to The Canterbury Tales. In addition to his work on the Middle Ages, he also works on questions of inclusive pedagogy and Universal Design. He has really strong feelings about laptops in classrooms.

Jonathan Hsy is a scholar-activist who seeks to build new kinds of knowledge, and new forms of community, that center lived understandings of disability, race, and embodied variance. He has served on the MLA Committee on Disability Issues in the Profession and is co-editor of A Cultural History of Disability in the Middle Ages (Bloomsbury 2020). He is co-author of essays on medieval disability and digital humanities with Richard H. Godden, and he is the author of Antiracist Medievalisms (Arc Humanities 2021). He is completing a book on autobiographical writings by medieval authors who identify as blind or deaf.

Cameron Hunt McNabb‘s academic interests include disability studies, early drama, and pedagogy, and she is the editor for The Medieval Disability Sourcebook: Western Europe, an open-access volume on disability in the European Middle Ages. She has published in numerous peer-reviewed journals, including Early Theatre, Studies in Philology, and Neophilologus, and her essay “Night of the Living Bread: Unstable Signs in Chester’s ‘Antichrist'” won Early Theatre’s Best Interpretive Essay for 2015-2017. She currently serves as an Associate Professor in the Humanities Department at Southeastern University.

Kristina Richardson is an associate professor of history at Queens College and the Graduate Center, The City University of New York. She held an ERC-funded Marie Curie fellowship at the University of Münster from 2012 to 2014, and was a research fellow at the University of Bonn from 2014 to 2015. Professor Richardson is the author of Difference and Disability in the Medieval Islamic World (Edinburgh University Press, 2012), and she has published articles on blue and green eyes in medieval Islamic societies, the state of Middle Eastern disability history, and 16th-century Arabic historical manuscripts. Her co-authored study of a 16th-century Aleppine silk-weaver’s diary will soon be published with Orient-Institut Beirut. She is also completing a monograph entitled Gypsies in the Medieval Islamic World: A History of a People (I.B. Tauris/Bloomsbury).

Link to the video:

Podcast – Passion Médiévistes – épisode 40 – Megan et la surdité au Moyen Age (in French + transcription).



Référente en langue des signes d’enfants sourds et née de parents sourds, Megan Kateb était, au moment de l’enregistrement de l’épisode du podcast, en master 2 d’histoire médiévale à Paris X. En 2019 elle avait réalisé un mémoire de première année de master sur la surdité en Occident, encadré par Franck Collard et Yann Cantin.

Il était divisé en trois parties : la première exclusivement médicale, la vision des médecins sur ce qui était autrefois considéré comme une maladie, la deuxième portée sur les miracles de sourds qui entendent à nouveau ou pour la première fois et enfin une troisième partie sur l’impact des moines bénédictins qui en faisant vœu de silence ont mis au point un langage gestuel, se rapprochant d’une idée de future langue des signes.

Son mémoire de deuxième année porte toujours sur la surdité mais cette fois dans l’espace euro-méditerranéen médiéval. Elle y aborde les vies religieuses et quotidiennes des sourds tant dans l’empire musulman, chrétien que dans le judaïsme : comment vivaient- ils vraiment ? Quels paradoxe y a t’il entre les textes religieux et la réalité ?


Plus d’information (et transcription) sur le site de Passion médiévistes

More information (and transcription) on the Passion médiévistes website.

Podcast – talk between Wendy Turner and Chris Mounsey on medieval mental health and eighteenth-century sight impairment

#126 History Hack: Disabilities in History

Wendy Turner and Chris Mounsey join forces to talk about the challenges of researching disabilities in history. Using their specialisations in medieval mental health and eighteenth century sight impairment, they tell a wider tale of difficulties in terminology, understanding human experience, for which solutions are evolving constantly. 


Link to the podcast

New book – Disability in industrial Britain: A cultural and literary history of impairment in the coal industry, 1880-1948 – Mike Mantin, Steven Thompson, Kirsti Bohata, Alexandra Jones- Manchester University Press

Disability in industrial Britain: A cultural and literary history of impairment in the coal industry, 1880-1948 
Mike Mantin, Steven Thompson, Kirsti Bohata, Alexandra Jones

Series: Disability History
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Manchester University Press; (March 17, 2020)
Language: English
ISBN-13: 978-1526124319

Coalmining was a notoriously dangerous industry and many of its workers experienced injury and disease. However, the experiences of the many disabled people within Britain’s most dangerous industry have gone largely unrecognised by historians. This book looks at British coal through the lens of disability, using an interdisciplinary approach to examine the lives of disabled miners and their families.

A diverse range of sources are used to examine the economic, social, political and cultural impact of disability in the coal industry, looking beyond formal coal company and union records to include autobiographies, novels and existing oral testimony. It argues that, far from being excluded entirely from British industry, disability and disabled people were central to its development. The book will appeal to students and academics interested in disability history, disability studies, social and cultural history and representations of disability in literature.

1. Work, economy and disability in the British coalfields
2. Medicalising miners in the twentieth century? Medicine, care and rehabilitation
3. Systems of financial support for disabled miners and their families
4. Social relations in the construction and experience of disability
5. The politicisation of disability
6. Disability in coalfields literature 1880-1948


  • Steven Thompson is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of History and Welsh History at Aberystwyth University.
  • Mike Mantin was Research Fellow for the Disability and Industrial Society project.
  • Kirsti Bohata is Professor of English and Director of CREW, the Centre for Research into the English Literature and Language of Wales at Swansea University.
  • Alexandra Jones was on a Full PhD Studentship for the Disability and Industrial Society project.

More infos on the editor website