The role of the hospital in medieval England

Gift-giving and the spiritual economy

Sheila Sweetinburgh

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ISBN: 1-85182-794-3
May 2004. 288pp.

Hospitals in medieval England gave and received gifts as part of the spiritual economy, engaging in an ongoing process of gift-exchange and reciprocity with the rich, as hospital patrons and benefactors. Those inside the hospital, the poor, infirm, and other unfortunates, also had a role to play, and as recipients of spiritual and bodily aid from the hospital, they could offer prayers of intercession for the house's benefactors, so playing a part in the exchange of gifts.

This study of the relationships between those inside and outside the hospital gate offers the opportunity to explore the social history of the medieval English hospital. It also provides a national survey of the English medieval hospital in conjunction with a number of complementary regional and local case studies.

Sheila Sweetinburgh holds degrees from the University of Kent, where she now teaches history.