The English Hospital, 1070-1570by Nicholas Orme, Margaret Webster
The first English hospitals appeared soon after the Norman Conquest. By the year 1300 they numbered over 500, caring for the sick and needy at every level of society - from the gentry and clergy to pilgrims, travellers, beggars and lepers. Excluded from towns, but placed by main highways where they could gather alms, they had a complex relationship with medieval society: cherished yet marginalised, self-contained yet also parasitic.
This book - the first general history of medieval and Tudor hospitals in eighty-five years - traces when and why they originated and follows their development through the crisis periods of the Black Death and the English Reformation when many disappeared. Nicholas Orme and Margaret Webster explore the hospitals' religious, charitable and medical functions, examine their buildings, staffing and finances, and analyse their inmates in terms of social background and medical needs. They reconstruct the daily life of hospitals, from worship to living conditions, food and care. The general survey is complemented by a regional study of hospitals in the south-west of England, including detailed histories of all the recorded institutions in Cornwall and Devon.
'A major and most accomplished work, the first reliable, methodical and total treatment of medieval English hospitals ever written.' - Barrie Dobson, Professor of Medieval History, Cambridge University.
- Yale University Press
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- 6.00(w) x 9.25(h) x (d)
Read an Excerpt
Historical topics are not neglected as often as publishers' blurbs proclaim. Yet a subject as large as that of English hospitals, from their origins in about 1070 until the Reformation, can justly be called neglected when the only detailed survey was published in 1909 and has long been out of print. That the survey in question, The Mediaeval Hospitals of England by Rotha Mary Clay, has held the field for so long is a tribute to her abilities as a historian. She carried out wide research and presented it clearly and sympathetically. It was published, however, in a popular series of books for general readers, and its form and procedures are not those of the present day. More evidence has come to light since it was written, and the interests and approaches of scholars in the 1990s have changed from those of the Edwardian period. No apology is therefore needed for publishing a fresh work on the subject.
The history of hospitals in the middle ages presents difficulties chiefly in its lack of national sources: laws, literature and treatises relating to hospitals in general. Most of the sources of the subject are to be found in the histories of individual houses, which numbered several hundred. These histories are forthcoming partly form the hospitals' own records and partly from references to them in the archives of the crown, the Church, the towns, and private records. Ever since Clay, the logical procedure has been to present the subject in both national and local terms, and we have followed this course. Part I of our work provides, in eight chapters, a history of hospitals in general, and their institutionaland social features from about 1070 to 1750. Part II shows how hospitals fared individually, by presenting detailed histories of the seventy known houses in a single English region: the South West of England, consisting of the counties of Conrwall and Devon. This region is one of the few parts of England whose medieval hospitals have not been studied to any significant extent in the last 150 years. Besides showing how hospitals operated locally, it yields new evidence about sites, patrons, constitutions, spirituality, endowments, staff and inmates helping to fix the features of hospitals nationally and to answer the questions that arise about them.
Excerpted from English Hospital 1070-1570 by Nicholas Orme and Margaret Webster. Copyright © 1995 by Yale University Press. Excerpted by permission.
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