Dyslexia pp 76-104 | Cite as

Reading Difficulties Become a Medical Concern

  • Tom Campbell


Having difficulty with reading, or being unable to read, has not always been a medical problem. In the late nineteenth century, physicians such as Broadbent (1872) and Hinshelwood (1895) became interested in identifying particular bodies with reading difficulties. These physicians were able to establish a particular population of persons understood as having reading difficulties. This chapter is focused around the question of ‘how’ reading difficulties were invented as a concern for medical researchers. I describe how this interest began to solidify into a diagnostic category, leading them to write reports in some of the most well-known and respected medical journals in Britain (Hinshelwood, 1895; Kussmaul, 1877). In response to this problem I will consider how the diagnosis of acquired word-blindness, a technology of power, was crafted, paying particular attention to why a difficulty with reading, in its acquired form, became a medical concern during the late nineteenth century. It will be argued that this diagnostic category provided the clinical precedents and many of the techniques that allowed for congenital word-blindness to become a viable diagnosis. I will describe how acquired word-blindness was used as a point of departure for the crafting of congenital word-blindness.


Intellectual Attribute Diagnostic Category Visual Memory Reading Difficulty Medical Concern 
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  1. 1.
    See my discussion in Chapters 3 and 4.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Tom Campbell 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tom Campbell
    • 1
  1. 1.University of LeedsUK

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