Thursday 13 April 2023
14.00 - 16.00
The Eldercare Revolution: Agency and Strategy in the Care of the Aged in Early Modern Europe I
Mauro Carboni :
Early Steps of Eldercare in Early Modern Italy: Bologna’s Asylum for Septuagenerians
Thomas Max Safley, Jaco Zuijderduijn
During the early modern period system of municipal welfare experienced remarkable growth in size and specialization in the main Italian cities. Institutions like hospitals, orphanages, and conservatories became vital units for the dispensation of general relief, providing care and services for selected poor or needy, such as orphans, beggars, the ... (Show more)
During the early modern period system of municipal welfare experienced remarkable growth in size and specialization in the main Italian cities. Institutions like hospitals, orphanages, and conservatories became vital units for the dispensation of general relief, providing care and services for selected poor or needy, such as orphans, beggars, the homeless, and the sick. Little relief was directed to the elderly though, and historians have focused on old people as recipients of family assistance. Unlike northern Europe, where recent historiography has documented the early rise of elderly care agencies, in Italy old people were supposed to rely on extended family, which remained the main welfare provider.
While this may have been the norm, the hard reality of old respectable people lacking adequate family support led to several institutional responses that were fashioned to fit the articulate structure of traditional municipal welfare. This paper will examine the early development of a small Bolognese retirement home - Ospizio dei vecchi settuagenari. The hospice followed the customary pattern of benevolent charitable homes: it was set up and funded in 1642 by the testamentary bequest of a wealthy private donor (Antonio Bondi) and was designed to grant accommodation and care to lone senior citizens from the lower strata. Banking on the hospice’s archival resources the paper will discuss the reasons leading to its establishment and the norms governing the institution. Equally important, the number and identity of retirees, the procedures of admission, and the way retirement spots were paid for will reveal not just the economic side of running a senior home but also the relationship between administrators and beneficiaries. (Show less)
Heidi Deneweth :
Patterns of Cohabitation for and with the Elderly in Bruges and Brussels during the 18th Century
The nuclear family has been considered the backbone of demographic patterns in North-Western Europe. Household classification systems (Hammel and Laslett 1974) confirm this pattern by putting the nuclear family at the centre of analysis. Moreover, neolocality was one of the main characteristics of the European Marriage Pattern (Hajnal 1982, De ... (Show more)
The nuclear family has been considered the backbone of demographic patterns in North-Western Europe. Household classification systems (Hammel and Laslett 1974) confirm this pattern by putting the nuclear family at the centre of analysis. Moreover, neolocality was one of the main characteristics of the European Marriage Pattern (Hajnal 1982, De Moor and Van Zanden 2006). This raises questions of dependency for those who are no longer capable of living independently: the elderly, the sick, people with physical and mental disabilities, the unemployed and the poor. The predominance of the nuclear family, however, has been nuanced by more recent research on urban contexts (Lynch 1991) and for the early modern period (Moring 2016). High migration rates necessitated individuals of all ages to move in with family members, acquaintances, or in boarding houses. A closer look at early modern census-data reveals that cohabitation was a much broader phenomenon in early modern urban contexts. Apart from revealing different forms of solidarity, support and family cohabitation patterns, it also testifies of additional income strategies for landlords and landladies of all ages.
This paper frames in a larger project on inequality, access to housing and patterns of cohabitation in Bruges and Brussels during the 18th and 19th century. It will focus specifically on patterns of cohabitation, solidarity, and support for and by the elderly during periods of distress in the 18th century. We will use the census of 1702 for Brussels (shortly after the bombardment in 1695) and the census of 1748 for Bruges (at the culmination point of an economic crisis during the French occupation). Although these data are biased by the exceptional contexts, they are extremely fit to reveal patterns of solidarity and support.
We will first analyse the types of housing (individual houses, parts of houses, collective housing) and define and visualise where the elderly were living. We will then analyse with whom they were living: alone, with servants, family members, colleagues or friends. A first and preliminary analysis reveals that the elderly were not just the ones receiving care, but several of them offered a social safety net for their own relatives as well. By analysing (former) occupations, gender, wealth or poverty indicators, we will offer a nuanced view of housing (and income) strategies deployed by the elderly. (Show less)
Ludwig Pelzl :
Old Age, Social Mobility and Saving in South Germany, 17th to 18th Centuries
When we think about early modern inequality, we tend to presuppose that all individuals are in middle age. My thesis tries to enrich our understanding of early modern social order by looking at it through a life-cyclic lense. I argue that there was a considerable degree of downwards social mobility ... (Show more)
When we think about early modern inequality, we tend to presuppose that all individuals are in middle age. My thesis tries to enrich our understanding of early modern social order by looking at it through a life-cyclic lense. I argue that there was a considerable degree of downwards social mobility in old age which was easily overlooked in traditional accounts on social order, since individual life trajectories can only with great difficulty be retrieved from early modern sources. When productivity and thus income from labour decreased through aging, individuals faced the very real risk of slipping into poverty in old age. Family support might have been helped some, but to a considerable portion it was for various reasons unavailable. The process might have been most pronounced among middle class individuals, such as artisans, who enjoyed decent living standards for most of their adult working life, but could not maintain this when their income from work shrunk. I study this phenomenon through the transmission of welfare instititutions in a number of mid-size South German cities in the 17th and 18th century. These devoted the largest share of their resources to maintaining numerous elderly in retirement homes ante litteram. The admission to these homes, through which the elderly obtained the rigth of bread and board until the last of their days, often cost considerable sums.
The thesis chapter at hand analyzes the way in which prospective retirees paid for their retirement contract in four South German hospitals (Nördlingen, Rothenburg, Würzburg, Nuremberg) between 1600 and 1750. The mode of payment reveals how individuals had saved in middle life, putting them in a comfortable position in old age. Among savings instruments the importance of real estate is highlighted: Around half of all elderly whose payment details we know of, retired by selling their urban real estate. The relative price stability and security of returns which urban real estate promised might have attracted long-term savers.
Homeownership additionally points to an urban milieu at which the welfare policies of the hospitals might have been primarily aimed at. Getting one’s hands on one’s money quickly was often necessary, since institutions preferred cash payments and wanted them to be wrapped up in reasonable time frames. The elderly were thus confronted with the challenge of finding the liquidity to raise a considerable sum for the retirement contract within a short amount of time. Homeowners were at the mercy of real estate markets and choosy (or even worse, equally illiquid) buyers. Likewise, individuals who had saved through investing in private credit struggled to promptly extract their resources from lengthy and entangled credit networks. The down side of long-term saving could be that resources were hard to quickly retrieve. My thesis chapter relies on a descriptive statistical evaluation as well as narrative sources. It hopes to stimulate larger discussions on how our understanding of early modern social order and inequality changes when we view it through a life-cyclic perspective? (Show less)