The English Hospital, 1070-1570


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Nicholas Orme and Margaret Webster

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The first English hospitals appeared soon after the Norman Conquest. By the year 1300 they numbered over 500, caring for the sick at every level of society—from the gentry and clergy to pilgrims, travelers, beggars, and lepers. Excluded from towns but placed by main highways where they could gather alms, they had a complex relation with medieval society: cherished yet marginalized, 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 analyze their patients 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 of the southwest of England, including detailed histories of all the recorded institutions in Cornwall and Devon.

Nicholas Orme is professor of history at Exeter University. Margaret Webster spent her career in nursing, followed by research at Exeter University into the history of hospitals.

"A major and most accomplished work, the first reliable and methodical total treatment of medieval English hospitals ever written."—Barrie Dobson, Christ's College, Cambridge

"This absorbing book describes the origin and evolution of our hospitals. . . . A most engrossing historical study."—Mary Seller, Church Times

"Generously and crisply illustrated, packed with detail, and superbly documented and indexed. . . . It will reward the serious general reader with highlights such as the poem by Robert Copeland, The Highway to the Spitalhouse. . . . It should improve one's regard for the modern hospital."—J. Gordon Scanell, New England Journal of Medicine

"A meticulous overview of the early history of the English hospital."—John Muendel, PhD, JAMA

"A long overdue national survey about the origins, siting, organization, and resources of medieval and Tudor hospitals. . . . An important addition to any library's history of medicine."—Elizabeth Lane Furdell, History: The Review of New Books

"A useful reference for anyone interested in describing the characteristics and functions of early English hospitals."—Jennifer Stine, Stanford University

"Extensively illustrated, and packed with maps and plans, this volume is a welcome addition to the available writing on medieval hospitals."—R. N. Swanson, Ecclesiastical History

"This well-researched work provides considerable insight into the emergence of freestanding hospitals in England prompted by charity, supported by philanthropy and run by clergy; their subsequent proliferation and abuse by self-serving clerics, which first began to draw public attention in the 15th century; and ultimately, the impact of the Reformation as the strength of the Church, which had theretofore governed hospitals, was eroded by the growing power of the laity."—Choice

"This fine book combines the most complete survey of English hospitals with a comprehensive study of the hospitals of Devon and Cornwall. . . . It illuminates a hitherto neglected topic."—Michael Hicks, Southern History

"Clearly written and accessible to those who know neither the period nor the topic. Yet it is scholarly and gives the reader confidence that the authors have a deep and sympathetic understanding of the first half of this millennium, and also the humility to know what they do not know."—Geoffrey Rivett, Social History of Medicine

"This book offers a well-written, accessible and informative survey of the history of hospitals in medieval England. It is highly recommended to those seeking to know more about these important institutions and their regional history in Devon and Cornwall during the middle ages."—Maryanne Kowaleski, Devon and Cornwall Notes and Queries

"This history of Medieval and Tudor hospitals in England is a most scholarly work, covering all recent research, well illustrated, and a pleasure to read."—John Ellis, The Pharos

"The English Hospital deserves a wide readership."—Edward J. Kealey, Albion

"Well written, thoroughly documented, generously illustrated, and very accessible, this book will claim a wide readership among those interested in the history of charitable and religious works. Equally significant, it supplies a missing chapter in general knowledge of medieval English medicine, a field still dominated by histories of university-educated physicians and their writings. . . . All this is buttressed by a remarkable set of maps, illustrations, and diagrams, which give the readers a sense of the physical presence of the buildings and of the day-to-day living that took place inside them."—Faye Getz, American Historical Review

"It is a very useful introduction to a topic of increasing interest to academics and students. It is enlivened with a considerable number of illustrations and maps, making it an attractive read. It will be of particular interest to local historians of the south-west who will find it a useful reference aid."—P.H. Cullum, Journal of the Society of Archivists

"This is a handsome book lavishly illustrated with photographs and floor plans."—Philip Niles, Speculum—A Journal of Medieval Studies

"Numerous maps, plans and pictures contribute greatly to the enjoyment of this attractively produced volume."—A.K. McHardy, History

"The many strengths of this book include a lucid style, extensive documentation and numerous attractive and helpful maps, plans and illustrations."—D.M. Palliser, Antiquaries Journal

ISBN: 9780300060584
Publication Date: July 26, 1995
320 pages, 6 x 9 1/4
70 b/w illus.
Medieval Schools

Roman Britain to Renaissance England

Nicholas Orme

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