"A House Dedicated to God": Social Welfare and the General Hospital in Reformation Geneva, 1535-1564
AuthorHoward, Kristen Coan
AdvisorLotz-Heumann, Ute E.
Plummer, Marjorie E.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction, presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
EmbargoRelease after 08/12/2022
AbstractThis dissertation examines the provision of social welfare in sixteenth-century Geneva, focusing on the Hôpital Général (General Hospital), a new institution created by official decree of the Genevan magistrates six months prior to the unanimous adoption of the Reformation in the city. I examine the General Hospital as a “household dedicated to God” in its first decades of operation, a “household” in which a board of hospital directors functioned as patresfamilias in providing care to the impoverished and institutionalized poor from the cradle to the grave. I argue that through their work at the General Hospital and its auxiliary hospitals (the travelers’ and plague hospitals), the hospital directors provided care and discipline to poor Genevans, and occasionally outsiders, in order to preserve the city’s resources, promote the Reformation agenda, and protect their Christian community. I focus on the sources created by the General Hospital itself to understand who the hospital directors believed to constitute the “worthy poor”: native Genevans who engaged in work to “earn their life” (gagner sa vie) and who demonstrated both orthodoxy and orthopraxy according to the new Protestant religion. In their attempts to separate the worthy from the unworthy poor, the hospital directors engaged in social discipline, revealing that in Reformation Geneva social welfare and social discipline were intimately connected. My research demonstrates that the hospital directors used the carrot of alms and the stick of discipline in their attempts to alleviate poverty in the city. What emerges is a more nuanced picture of life in sixteenth-century Geneva, especially for the impoverished.
Degree ProgramGraduate College