The Medieval Economy of Salvation
Charity, Commerce, and the Rise of the Hospital
Published by: Cornell University Press
336 pages, 152.00 x 229.00 mm, 5 b&w halftones, 1 map
- ISBN: 9781501742101
- Published: December 2019
In The Medieval Economy of Salvation, Adam J. Davis shows how the burgeoning commercial economy of western Europe in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, alongside an emerging culture of Christian charity, led to the establishment of hundreds of hospitals and leper houses. Focusing on the county of Champagne, he looks at the ways in which charitable organizations and individuals—townspeople, merchants, aristocrats, and ecclesiastics—saw in these new institutions a means of infusing charitable giving and service with new social significance and heightened expectations of spiritual rewards.
Hospitals served as visible symbols of piety and, as a result, were popular objects of benefaction. They also presented lay women and men with new penitential opportunities to personally perform the works of mercy, which many embraced as a way to earn salvation. At the same time, these establishments served a variety of functions beyond caring for the sick and the poor; as benefactors donated lands and money to them, hospitals became increasingly central to local economies, supplying loans, distributing food, and acting as landlords. In tracing the rise of the medieval hospital during a period of intense urbanization and the transition from a gift economy to a commercial one, Davis makes clear how embedded this charitable institution was in the wider social, cultural, religious, and economic fabric of medieval life.
List of Illustrations
A Note on Monies and Measures
Introduction: A Charitable Revolution in an Age of Commerce
1. Medieval Understandings of Charity: From Penance to Commerce
2. The Creation of a Charitable Landscape
3. Hospital Patrons and Social Networks
4. Managing a Hospital's Property
5. "In Service of the Poor": Hospital Personnel in Pursuit of Security
6. The Sick Poor and the Economy of Care
"On this episode of River to River, guest host Rick Brewer is joined by historian Adam Davis to unpack the history of hospitals in medieval Europe and help us see the modern parallels of these systems and institutions. One of the many comparisons Davis makes to our modern hospital system is the emergence of medieval hospitals as 'big business.'"~Rick Brewer, Iowa Public Radio, Iowa Public Radio,'River to River'
"This is a meticulously researched study of an important are of medieval life. Adam J. Davis,an expert historian of medieval religion, locates his work in the context of various scholarly debates and draws on an exhaustive range of English and French sources. The Medieval Economy of Salvation provides a scholarly insight into medieval hospitals and their relationships with the wider society. Davis teases out the twisted strands of complex realities with a marvellously expert hand. The reward for the reader is not just to understand more about the medieval mindset and hospitals, but to appreciate how much there is to know."~Judith Godden, University of Sydney, Health and history