The Undesirables

Sarah Wise


In stock

The shocking story of how the British government locked up thousands of innocent people – then forgot about them.

ISBN: 9780861544554 Category:


Through the early twentieth century, the British Government locked away over 50,000 innocent people. Their ‘crimes’? Being poor and unyielding. This is their story.

‘Staggering? Wise’s book bristles with injustices.’ Sunday Telegraph, *****

By 1950, an estimated 50,000 people had been deemed ‘defective’ by the British government and detained indefinitely under the 1913 Mental Deficiency Act. Their ‘crimes’ were various: women with children born out of wedlock; rebellious teenagers caught shoplifting; those with epilepsy, hearing impairments and chronic illnesses who had struggled in school; and many who were simply ‘different’.

Forcibly removed from their families and confined to a shadow world of specialist facilities in the countryside, they were hidden away and forgotten – out of sight, out of mind.

Through painstaking archival research, award-winning historian Sarah Wise shines a light on this shameful chapter. Piecing together the lives irrevocably changed by this devastating legislation, The Undesirables provides a compelling study of how early twentieth-century attitudes to class, gender and disability resulted in a nationwide scandal – and how they continue to shape social policy to this day.

‘The heartrending stories Sarah Wise has unearthed beggar belief? beautifully researched and truly compelling.’ Catherine Bailey, author of Black Diamonds

Additional information

Weight 0.566 kg
Dimensions 23.4 × 15.3 × 3 cm










305.56809410904 (edition:23)


General – Trade / Code: K

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