rach2015“Deaf History: an incomplete jigsaw” is a blog written by Rachel Wilks.

Rachel, Deaf herself, has a BA (Hons) Degree in History and a MSc in Deaf Studies. She is currently studying a MA in History by research, and is exploring aspects of deafness in eighteenth century England.

She is a Child of Deaf Adults (CODA) and while she has been mainstreamed most of her life, has been very much involved in the Deaf community. She is the wife of Rob Wilks, a Deaf Solicitor and lecturer at the University of South Wales and mum to their three gorgeous young kids, Corey, Libby and Emily.

Rachel has always been interested in history which led her to do a History degree which she completed at Cardiff University. To her disappointment, there was no mention of the experiences of Deaf people in any of the modules she completed over the three years at Cardiff, so she set out to do her dissertation on the fate of Deaf people in Nazi Germany. The next step was then to complete a master’s degree in Deaf Studies at Bristol University in order to learn more about Deaf people and their past.

Deaf Studies did not provide answers about the experiences of and attitudes towards Deaf people in history, the history Rachel really wanted to get her teeth in, although she did set out to find out how Deaf History as a discipline is developing. This soon raised the question: a great deal has happened in history but where do Deaf people fit in? Deaf people have been largely ignored by the majority of historians. The information is out there but not readily available and needs to be dug out and pieced together like a jigsaw: a difficult task the further back in history you go as records of Deaf people become scarce.

Being Deaf herself, coming from a Deaf family and two of her children being Deaf, finding this information is important. Not just for herself and her family, but for future generations of Deaf people, the wider Deaf community and the rest of society. Who knows? A discovery of something two hundred years ago could be of benefit today. This has taken Rachel to where she is now – researching aspects of deafness in eighteenth century England at Swansea University under the supervision of Professor David Turner.

While this blog is titled “Deaf History”, the majority of posts will be linked to the eighteenth century, which is what her research is focused on for now. However, from time to time, other topics may be explored.

Please note: the term ‘Deaf’ is capitalised to mean all deaf people, to indicate positive affirmation of their identity; and as a celebration of individual and collective talent.