restricted access The Lexical Prison: Impairment and Confinement in Medieval and Early Modern England


This article examines the lexical precariousness of definitions of impairment in legal and administrative discourses in select case studies in medieval and early modern administrative records. The terminologies used to label individuals in the courts were sometimes equivocal and this had consequences for those subject to the law. In criminal cases, the outcome for the mentally impaired tended to produce or ameliorate carceral sentencing or social exile. The records show that various forms of literal imprisonment (home detention with restraints, formal) were employed against some persons who were permanently or intermittently impaired, depending on the court's opinion of their condition.