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Biography - Sheena Rolph

Throughout the 1980s I worked in the Adult Education Centre of a large hospital for people with learning difficulties. I became interested in the history of the hospital and, because of my background as a historian, I was drawn to discover more about learning disability history in general.

The opportunity for me to combine both fields came when I did a PhD at The Open University, The History of Community Care for People with Learning Difficulties in Norfolk, 1930-1980: the Role of Two Hostels. I used both oral history and photographic and archival research to explore the history of two hostels for women and men in Norwich. This work led to further research and publications aiming to piece together the history of community care in East Anglia in the twentieth century.

Until my retirement in 2010, I remained at The Open University as a Senior Research Fellow, undertaking oral history research supported by a Heritage Lottery Fund grant and focusing on the role of local Mencap societies in delivering community care in East Anglia between 1946 and 1990. Throughout my time at The Open University I was active in supporting the work of the Social History of Learning Disability Research Group, both in organising conferences and contributing to subsequent publications.

Publications

  • Rolph, S. (1998) 'Ethical Dilemmas: Oral History work with people with learning difficulties', Oral History, Autumn 1998.
  • Rolph, S. (1998) 'Ethical Dilemmas in Historical Research with People with Learning Difficulties', British Journal of Learning Disabilities, Vol. 26, No. 4.
  • Rolph, S. (1999) 'Enforced Migrations by People with Learning Difficulties: A Case Study', Oral History, Vol. 27, No. 1.
  • Rolph, S. (2000) 'Surprise Journeys and Border Crossings'. In Atkinson, D. et. al. (eds) Crossing Boundaries. Change and Continuity in the History of Learning Disability, Kidderminster, BILD Publications.
  • Atkinson, D., McCarthy, M., Walmsley, J. et al. (2000) Good Times, Bad Times: Women with Learning Difficulties Telling Their Stories, Kidderminster, BILD Publications.
  • Rolph, S., Atkinson, D. and Walmsley, J. (2000) 'Community care and mental deficiency 1913-1945'. In Bartlett, P. and Wright, D. (eds) Outside the Walls of the Asylum. This History of Care in the Community 1720-2000, Athlone Press.
  • Rolph, S. and Walmsley, J. (2001) 'The Development of community care for people with learning difficulties 1913-1946', Critical Social Policy, Vol. 21, No. 1.
  • Rolph, S., Atkinson, D. and Walmsley, J. (2002) '"A Man's Job?": Gender issues and the role of Mental Welfare Officers, 1948-1970', Oral History, Vol. 30, No. 1, pp. 28-41.
  • Rolph, S., Atkinson, D. and Walmsley, J. (2003) '"A Pair of Stout Shoes and an Umbrella": The role of the Mental Welfare Officer in delivering community care in East Anglia, 1946-1970', British Journal of Social Work, Vol. 33, No. 3, pp. 339-359.
  • Rolph, S. (2002) Reclaiming the Past: The role of Local Mencap Societies in the Development of Community Care in East Anglia 1946-1980, Milton Keynes, The Open University.
  • Rolph, S. (2003) 'Taking Account of History', Chapter 12 in Managing Care, K303 Book 1, Milton Keynes, The Open University.
  • Hall, V. (supported by Sheena Rolph) (2004) 'I have my freedom now', in Johnson, K. (ed.) Testimonies by People with an Intellectual Disability, London, Jessica Kingsley.
  • Rolph, S., Atkinson, D., Nind, M. and Welshman, J. (eds) (2005) Witnesses to Change: Families, Learning Difficulties and History, Kidderminster, BILD Publications.
  • Rolph, S. (2005) Building Bridges into the Community: The History of Bedford and District Society for People with Learning Difficulties, 1955-1990, Milton Keynes, The Open University.
  • Rolph, S. (2005) A New Voice: The History of South Norfolk Local Mencap Society, 1974-1990, Milton Keynes, The Open University.
  • Rolph, S. (2005) 'A Place in the Sun': The History of Lowestoft and District Local Mencap Society, 1962-1990, Milton Keynes, The Open University.
  • Rolph, S. (2005) 'A Little Glamour with a Strict Tempo': The History of Cambridge Mencap, 1974-1990, Milton Keynes, The Open University.
  • Rolph, S. (2005) 'Captured on Film': The History of the Norwich and District Local Mencap Society, 1954-1990, Milton Keynes, The Open University.
  • Rolph, S. (2005) Taking to the Stage: The History of Great Yarmouth and District Mencap Society, 1969-1990, Milton Keynes, The Open University.
  • Rolph, S. and Walmsley, J. (Spring 2006) 'Oral History and New Orthodoxies: Narrative Accounts in the History of Learning Disability', Oral History.
  • Rolph, S. 'The Role and Perspectives of Families'. In Welshman, J. and Walmsley, J. (eds) Community Care in Perspective: Care, Control and Citizenship, Basingstoke, Palgrave, 2006.
  • Rolph, S. and Atkinson, D. 'Implementation of Community Care: Case Studies'. In Welshman, J. and Walmsley, J. (2006) Community Care in Perspective: Care, Control and Citizenship, Basingstoke, Palgrave.
  • Rolph, S. and Atkinson, D. 'Maureen Oswin and the "Forgotten Children": Research as Resistance'. In Mitchell, D. et. al. (eds) (2006) Exploring Experiences of Advocacy by People with Learning Difficulties: Testimonies of Resistance, Basingstoke, Palgrave.
  • Rolph, S. and Atkinson, D. (2010) ‘Emotion in Narrating the History of Learning Disability’, Oral History, Vol. 38, No. 2, pp 43-52.

Contact us

About the Group

If you woud like to get in touch with the Social History of Learning Disability (SHLD) Research Group, please contact:

Liz Tilley 
Chair of the Social History of Learning Disability (SHLD) Research Group
School of Health, Wellbeing and Social Care
Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies
The Open University
Walton Hall
Milton Keynes
MK7 6AA

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