To access these records you will either need to visit us, pay for research (£) or, where you can identify a specific record reference, order a copy (£).
Some of the broad range of records of disability at The National Archives are listed below. Find others by searching Discovery, our catalogue. Use a wide variety of search terms, including combinations of words, historical terms, place names and institutions. Sometimes search terms only broadly connected to the subject matter can be the key to uncovering files. For example:
- Search for early records on the Paralympics using ‘Stoke Mandeville’
- Search for records of disability caused by industrial accidents with combinations such as mine AND rehab* or coal AND paraplegia
- Search for research carried out on debilitating illnesses using terms such as rickets or occupational injuries using terms such as ‘beat elbow’
Records of the Disabled Persons Employment Corporation and Remploy Ltd 1945–2001
Search our catalogue by keyword or browse the BM department for records of the Disabled Persons Employment Corporation and the non-profit company Remploy Ltd, set up under the provisions of the Disabled Persons (Employment) Act 1944. Search for related records in LAB 9, LAB 16 and LAB 20. The following search terms will prove useful:
- Chailey Heritage
War pensions from First World War
Use our catalogue to search PIN 26 by nature of injury (for example, amputation or deafness) or by injured body part (for example, head or hip) for details of individuals awarded war disability pensions following the First World War. See the PIN 26 series arrangement for abbreviations used to describe some of these records. For more information see our guide to Disability and dependents’ pensions in the First World War.
Ministry of Labour files 1918–1980
Use our catalogue to search or browse the Ministry of Labour’s files on disabled persons (1919–1978) in LAB 20 and training schemes for the rehabilitation of the disabled (1922–1980) in LAB 18.
Charities for the disabled
Search our catalogue with the advanced search by charity name for charities which relate to disabilities in the Charity Commission files in CHAR 7 (1750–2002) and the files relating to public health services in MH 55 (1853-1970). Some charities have changed their names since the files were created and you will need to search by the old name.
Search our catalogue by the title of individual government acts relevant to disability issues in MH 55, T 161 and AST amongst others. One of the first pieces of legislation passed specifically for a disability was the Blind Persons Act of 1920. For a useful timeline, see the English Heritage website.
Development of assistive technology
Use the advanced search in our catalogue to search by name of product (for example, ‘hearing aid’, ‘invalid chair’ or ‘artificial limb’) for records of designs, copyright and funding of assistive technology in the following record series and departments:
- COPY 1
- BM 12 for patents registered by Remploy between 1950 and 1996
- BT 45 (and registers in BT 46) for representations of designs registered under the Utility Designs Act 1843 – see our guide to registered designs for more information on how to search these records
- MH for Ministry of Health records
- FD for Medical Research Council records
- BN for Department of Health and Social Security records
Ships’ medical journals 1785–1963
Use the advanced search in Discovery, our catalogue, to search ADM 101 for surgeons’ journals, a very small number of which are available online. These journals were kept on board ships to track the health of the ship’s company. Amongst accounts of the medical or surgical treatments carried out on board, they also include details of long-term disabilities and some sketches. Search using historical terms (see ‘Did you know?’).