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Other titles in the Rochester Studies in Medical History series:
Rochester Studies in Medical History, #4: Venereal Disease, Hospitals and the Urban Poor: London's 'Foul Wards', 1600-1800by Kevin P. Siena
Synopses & Reviews
This book explores the treatment of the 'foul' disease in hospitals and infirmaries throughout London from the mid-sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries. It examines hospital and workhouse records to correct the misconception that charitable care for venereal disease only emerged in the Enlightenment. In fact, venereal patients can be found in the earliest surviving records of London's hospitals. Statistical reconstruction of the wards showsthat, more than merely present in these institutions, they were omnipresent. Far from banned, paupers in the 'foul' wards accounted for a surprisingly large portion of the patient populations of London hospitals; in some instances one out of every four patients entered the venereal wards. This discovery leads to a new exploration of the meaning of early modern charity. It is revealing to learn that venereal patients were constructed as 'worthy'objects of charity from an early date, but it is no less revealing to explore how they formed a unique category. The sexual nature of their disease ensured that their illness-experience would be quite unlike other contemporary patients.Class and gender played a formative role in this story. Theshameful nature of the disease, and the gendered nature of shame itself, meant that women and men faced quite different circumstance. There emerged agendered geography of London hospital care, as men with the pox predominated in fee-charging hospitals, while women relied much more heavily on workhouses. This study explored how the issue of privacy related to venereal disease care and demonstrates that venereology had innovative effects on medical ethics. Private physicians began advertising medical confidentiality toprospective patients before other contemporary doctors discussed that issue.Those who could not afford private care filled the 'foul wards' under study here; it becomes clear that their care was a highly public affair.Kevin Siena is Assistant Professor of History at Trent University.
A re-examination of the role of charity and treating venereal disease in public hospitals in early modern London.
This book explores how London society responded to the dilemma of the rampant spread of the pox among the poor. Some have asserted that public authorities turned their backs on the foul and only began to offer care for venereal patients in the Enlightenment. An exploration of hospitals and workhouses shows a much more impressive public health response. London hospitals established foul wards at least as early as the mid-sixteenth century. Reconstruction of these wards shows that, far from banning paupers with the pox, hospitals made treating them one of their primary services. Not merely present in hospitals, venereal patients were omnipresent. Yet the foul comprised a unique category of patient. The sexual nature of their ailment guaranteed that they would be treated quite differently than all other patients. Class and gender informed patients' experiences in crucial ways. The shameful nature of the disease, and the gendered notion of shame itself, meant that men and women faced quite different circumstances. There emerged a gendered geography of London hospitals as men predominated in fee-charging hospitals, while sick women crowded into workhouses. Patients frequently desired to conceal their infection. This generated innovative services for elite patients who could buy medical privacy by hiring their own doctor. However, the public scrutiny that hospitalization demanded forced poor patients to be creative as they sought access to medical care that they could not afford. Thus, Venereal Disease, Hospitals and the Urban Poor offers new insights on patients' experiences of illness and on London's health care system itself. Kevin Siena is assistant professor of history at Trent University.
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