Plague Hospitals and Poor Relief in Late Medieval and Early Modern France

Neil Murphy*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Plague hospitals played a key role in the provision of poor relief in late medieval and early modern France. As the poor came to be identified as the principal carriers of plague, they were singled out for attention and special measures were imposed upon them – controls that were justified by the claim that they were being taken in the wider interests of public health. Yet plague hospitals were not just institutions for the confinement of the poor. Municipal councils developed these institutions as places where the poor could gain access to medical treatment and care. This article shows that plague hospitals played a formative role in the grand renfermement of the poor in seventeenth-century France. As places where the poor were confined and received care, it became natural for such hospitals to be used to house the poor outside of plague times. This article argues that municipal governments rather than the crown took the lead in the provision of welfare to the poor before the mid-seventeenth century, following which both the systems used to combat plague and wider poor relief schemes came increasingly under royal control
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)349-371
Number of pages23
JournalSocial History
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2 Oct 2022


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