While Paracelsus was interested in arguing that those regarded as fools, people who were seen as ‘not normal’, were in fact as human as those who thought they were superior, much of the history of treatment of the disabled and the ‘deviant’ from what currently passed as normal has been cruel, degrading and at best paternalistic. Ryan and Thomas (1981) demonstrated that a complex mix of religious, medical and moral beliefs over the past fi ve hundred years, while occasionally showing some sympathy, more often showed censure and abuse. The Christian religion largely took the view that disability and defect were a punishment for evil, Protestant Martin Luther being especially unpleasant in his view that the misdeeds of parents were responsible for producing defective children. Islam took a kinder view, the Prophet being recorded as accepting disabled people as friends (Pervez 2014). Until relatively recently in both England and the USA, the history of disability and special education attracted few scholars, and into the twenty-fi rst century there were complaints that historians were not interested in disability (Armstrong 2007). But over the past 30 years there has been more attention given to exploring the historical dimensions of current policies and practices and most textbooks for students of special and inclusive education now briefl y include some historical explanation.