Oxfordshire Past is organised by Oxfordshire Architectural and Historical Society in association with other Oxfordshire societies and organisations.

Oxfordshire Past Past

We added a list of past meetings and as many programmes as we could track down.

Understanding Courtesy Stigma in Historical Contexts

Definition of Courtesy Stigma

Courtesy stigma, also known as associative stigma or stigma by association, occurs when individuals who are closely related to or associated with stigmatized individuals also experience stigma. This stigma is not directly related to the individual's own characteristics or actions but rather arises due to their association with the stigmatized person or group.

Historical Examples of Courtesy Stigma

Throughout history, there have been numerous instances where courtesy stigma has played a significant role. One such example is the treatment of family members of individuals with mental illnesses during the medieval period. These family members often faced discrimination and social exclusion due to their association with someone who was deemed mentally ill.

Impact on Individuals

Courtesy stigma can have profound effects on the individuals who experience it. It can lead to feelings of shame, guilt, and isolation, as they are subjected to prejudice and discrimination due to their association with a stigmatized person or group. This can have long-lasting psychological and social consequences.

Challenges in Historical Contexts

Studying courtesy stigma in historical contexts presents its own set of challenges. Limited available historical records and the subjective interpretation of these records can make it difficult to accurately assess the extent of courtesy stigma in the past. However, historians and researchers have utilized various methodologies to gain insights into this phenomenon.

Methods Used to Study Courtesy Stigma in History

Historians have employed diverse research methods to understand courtesy stigma in historical contexts. These include analyzing written records, personal testimonies, and artwork from different time periods. By examining these sources, historians can piece together the experiences of individuals affected by courtesy stigma.


The concept of courtesy stigma in historical contexts sheds light on the complexities of societal attitudes towards stigmatized individuals and groups. It highlights the far-reaching impact of stigma on not only the stigmatized individuals but also those associated with them. By understanding courtesy stigma in historical contexts, we can gain a deeper understanding of the social dynamics of different time periods.


1. What is the difference between courtesy stigma and self-stigma?

Courtesy stigma is experienced by individuals who are associated with stigmatized individuals or groups, while self-stigma refers to the internalization of societal stigma by the stigmatized individuals themselves.

2. How can courtesy stigma be overcome?

Overcoming courtesy stigma requires raising awareness, education, and challenging societal prejudices. Support systems and advocacy efforts can also play a crucial role in empowering individuals affected by courtesy stigma.

3. Can courtesy stigma be observed in contemporary society?

Yes, courtesy stigma continues to be prevalent in contemporary society. Individuals who are associated with stigmatized groups, such as family members or friends, can still experience discrimination and prejudice as a result of their association.