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 societyfrom 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 bookthe first general history of medieval and Tudor hospitals in eighty-five yearstraces 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.