The seventeenth century witnessed profound reforms in the way French cities administered poor relief and charitable health care. New hospitals were built to confine the able bodied and existing hospitals sheltering the sick poor contracted new medical staff and shifted their focus towards offering more medical services. Whilst these moves have often been regarded as a coherent state led policy, recent scholarship has begun to question this assumption, and pick-up on more localised concerns, and resistance to centrally imposed policies. This book engages with these concerns, to investigate the links between charitable health care, poor relief, religion, national politics and urban social order in seventeenth-century France. In so doing it revises our understanding of the roles played in these issues by the crown and social elites, arguing that central government's social policy was conservative and largely reactive to pressure from local elites. It suggests that Louis XIV's policy regarding the reform of poor relief and the creation of General Hospitals in each town and city, as enshrined in the edict of 1662, was largely driven by the religious concerns of the kingdom's devout and the financial fears of the Parisian elites that their city hospitals were overburdened. Only after the Sun King's reign did central government begin to take a proactive role in administering poor relief and health care, utilizing urban charitable institutions to further its own political goals. By reintegrating the social aspirations of urban elites into the history of French poor relief, this book shows how the key role they played in the reform of hospitals, inspired by a mix of religious, economic and social motivations. It concludes that the state could be a reluctant participant in reform, until pressured into action by assisting elite groups pursuing their own goals.
Tim McHugh is Wellcome Trust Researcher and Lecturer in the History of Medicine in the School of History at Oxford Brookes University, UK.
’Tim McHugh's book offers a fresh and highly readable treatment of an important subject... McHugh's careful research, clear writing, and comparative findings on an important set of historical problems make his study a solid contribution to the history of poor relief, the history of French political development, and early modern urban history.’ Renaissance Quarterly ’By focusing on the traditional role of local elites in providing for local poor in cities and towns, McHugh successfully challenges previous interpretations.. ...Hospital Politics is most useful for graduate students and professional historians interested in early modern French, institutional or medical history. Beyond these particular areas, McHugh makes a significant contribution to the larger discipline by extending important challenges. ...Ultimately, this study both adds to the historiography and accomplishes its objectives by successfully questioning previously held notions about the extent of the crown’s authority with a thorough examination of the role played by local elites within early modern French hospital politics.’ French History ’McHugh’s well-written account of the influence of local elites and their connections to poor relief utilizes an amazing amount and array of primary sources and skilfully situates itself in the debate over the power of the French monarchy in absolutist France.’ Sixteenth Century Journal ’All in all, this book provides a useful and well-constructed contribution to our knowledge of the relations between the Crown and local elites in early modern France, as well as to the history of larger hospitals.’ European History Quarterly ’McHugh’s book is a refreshing and informative contribution to the growing annals on hospital and poor relief reform in the Early Modern period.’ Parergon