Proposal preview

AT THE ORIGINS OF WELFARE: INSTITUTIONS AND PRACTICES OF SOCIAL ASSISTANCE IN EUROPE (14TH – 19TH CENTURIES)

The wide phenomenology of Medieval poor relief provisions has long been perceived as religiously motivated and controlled by the ecclesiastical apparatus. In the main charitable initiatives have been regarded as individual manifestations inspired by pietas, disconnected from rational evaluation of social and economic needs, unconcerned with the efficiency of the services offered and the effectiveness of the management of assets. These interventions were disorganized and haphazard, and exhausted their purpose with the spiritual and worldly investment of benefactors. The postulate that communities have a moral responsibility to help the poor has been associated to the Protestant Reformation and to the Enlightenment. From a historiographical point of view, this perspective has justified the confining of the history of welfare to “a history of piety” till the 19th century – especially in Catholic countries – and the consequent lack of understanding and marginalization of pre modern assistance.
Since the 1970s, a progressive renewal of the historiographical perspective has taken place. Thanks to the proliferation of studies on the history of poverty, social exclusion and welfare institutions (Pullan 1971; Mollat 1974; Rubio 1984; Geremek 1986; Barry & Jones 1991; Brodman 1998; Farmer 2002; Horden 2008), the view of a clear cut modern rise of new rational forms of relief directed by secular authorities has been questioned. In turn this had led to a fruitful discussion about the very evolution of the concept of social responsibility in pre modern Europe, the scope and means of early welfare services provided to the sick and the poor by secular authorities. These historiographical developments have allowed us to view and approach in new ways the practices of poor relief and the complex institutional networks for social welfare that had already developed in urban communities in the late Middle Ages.
The session aims at shedding light on the common roots and evolution of western welfare culture, investigating goals, features and development of the various forms of care, social and economic relief that arose in European communities from the late Middle Ages onwards. Particular attention will be devoted to the growing role played by local authorities in promoting, directing and coordinating welfare policies.
We invite all session participants to address general issues in presenting their case studies, so that it will be possible to compare different models of welfare, diverse funding systems and styles of assets’ management, allocation of resources, and the impact different approaches had on policies of social control from the late Middle Ages to the 19th century.

Organizer(s)

  • Paola Avallone Italian National Research Council (CNR) - Institute of Studies on Mediterranean Societies (ISSM) - Italy avallone@issm.cnr.it Italy
  • Mauro Carboni University of Bologna - Italy mauro.carboni@unibo.it Italy
  • Nicholas Terpstra University of Toronto - Canada nicholas.terpstra@utoronto.ca Canada

Session members

  • Paola Avallone, Italian National Council of Research (CNR) - Institute of Studies on Mediterranean Societies (ISSM) - Italy
  • Mauro Carboni, University of Bologna - Italy
  • Nicholas Terpstra, University of Toronto - Canada
  • Gemma Teresa Colesanti, Italian National Council of Research (CNR) - Institute of European Mediterranean History (ISEM) - Italy
  • Antoni Furió, University of Valencia - Spain
  • Luciano Maffi, University "Cattolica del Sacro Cuore" of Brescia - Italy
  • Raffaella Salvemini, Italian National Council of Research (CNR) - Institute of Studies on Mediterranean Societies (ISSM) - Italy
  • Matthew Sneider , University of Massachusetts - Dartmouth - USA
  • Donatella Strangio, University "Sapienza" of Roma - Italy
  • Jaco Zuijderduijn, Lund University
  • Myriam Greilsammer, Bar-Ilan University
  • Timothy Fehler, Furman University
  • Martín L. E. Wasserman, University of Buenos Aires – National Scientific and Technical Research Council

Discussant(s)

  • Nicholas Terpstra University of Toronto - Canada nicholas.terpstra@utoronto.ca

Papers

Panel abstract

The session aims at shedding light on the common roots and evolution of western welfare culture, investigating goals, features and development of the various forms of care, social and economic relief that arose in European communities from the late Middle Ages onwards. Particular attention will be devoted to the growing role played by local authorities in promoting, directing and coordinating welfare policies. All session participants will address general issues in presenting their case studies, so that it will be possible to compare different models of welfare, diverse funding systems and styles of assets’ management, allocation of resources, and the impact different approaches had on policies of social control from the late Middle Ages to the 19th century.

1st half

Working Charity: Gender, Charitable Enclosures and Industrial Development in Early Modern Italy

Nicholas Terpstra

In 16th century northern Italy and France, a charitable ethos oriented to enclosing women in order to protect and reform them converged with the needs of the silk industry for a low cost and captive labour force. This paper will explore the conditions and profitability of charitable enclosures (foundling homes, orphanages, and workhouses) for women in Florence, Lyons, and Bologna looking at. While general workhouses are often regarded as having been economic failures, specialized enclosures for young women had distinct incentives and stronger discipline, making forced labour in the textile industry more profitable and attractive. While forced labour may not have been vital to the silk industry over the long term, piecework industries and silk in particular were vital to the women's enclosures and made some of them economically viable.

In 16th century northern Italy and France, a charitable ethos oriented to enclosing women in order to protect and reform them converged with the needs of the silk industry for a low cost and captive labour force. This paper will explore the conditions and profitability of charitable enclosures (foundling homes, orphanages, and workhouses) for women in Florence, Lyons, and Bologna looking at. While general workhouses are often regarded as having been economic failures, specialized enclosures for young women had distinct incentives and stronger discipline, making forced labour in the textile industry more profitable and attractive. While forced labour may not have been vital to the silk industry over the long term, piecework industries and silk in particular were vital to the women's enclosures and made some of them economically viable.

Public or private? Retirement homes in the early-modern Dutch Republic

Jaco Zuijderduijn

The paper discusses how big-city retirement homes in the Dutch Republic offered a combination of private and public welfare to inmates. Wealthy individuals and couples could purchase a corrody which entitled them to a room, food and drink, and assistance; for the less wealthy there was the opportunity to pay a lump sum for the right to a bed on the hospital ward, as well as livelong care. These paying customers would usually stay in one wing of hospital buildings, whereas poor inmates who were the recipients of public welfare, would stay in another wing; the entire hospital premises were shared by privately-financed retirees and publicly-financed elderly poor. Did this combination of private and public amounted to hospitals on the one hand earning from an expanding demand for elderly care, and on the other hand using the profits to pay for public welfare services? Could hospitals finance welfare services for...

The paper discusses how big-city retirement homes in the Dutch Republic offered a combination of private and public welfare to inmates. Wealthy individuals and couples could purchase a corrody which entitled them to a room, food and drink, and assistance; for the less wealthy there was the opportunity to pay a lump sum for the right to a bed on the hospital ward, as well as livelong care. These paying customers would usually stay in one wing of hospital buildings, whereas poor inmates who were the recipients of public welfare, would stay in another wing; the entire hospital premises were shared by privately-financed retirees and publicly-financed elderly poor. Did this combination of private and public amounted to hospitals on the one hand earning from an expanding demand for elderly care, and on the other hand using the profits to pay for public welfare services? Could hospitals finance welfare services for elderly poor by participating in the market for commercial retirement? And if so, was their business model sustainable, or did they require incidental or structural support from public authorities? And what adjustments had to be made over time to keep private-public retirement homes financially viable?

Public and private institutions of social assistance in late medieval Crown of Aragon

Antoni Furió

The paper addresses, on a comparative basis, the different public and private institutions of social assistance –hospitals, including the care of abandoned children, through the hiring of wet nurses, but also orphans and repentants (ex-prostitutes)– of the four main cities of the Crown of Aragon –Barcelona, Valencia, Mallorca and Zaragoza–, capitals in turn of their respective kingdoms: Catalonia, Valencia, Mallorca and Aragon. Most of these institutions emerged at the end of the 13th century or the beginning of the 15th century by private initiative. In fact, most welfare institutions were founded by indivi¬dual or associated bourgeois, rather than by the Church or ecclesiastical establishments. Only in the city of Valencia did they reach twenty. Gradually, however, the municipal authorities were taking the lead, coordinating the various individual initiatives, until achieving the centralization of all the individual hospitals in a single general hospital. The paper also addresses the direction, management and...

The paper addresses, on a comparative basis, the different public and private institutions of social assistance –hospitals, including the care of abandoned children, through the hiring of wet nurses, but also orphans and repentants (ex-prostitutes)– of the four main cities of the Crown of Aragon –Barcelona, Valencia, Mallorca and Zaragoza–, capitals in turn of their respective kingdoms: Catalonia, Valencia, Mallorca and Aragon. Most of these institutions emerged at the end of the 13th century or the beginning of the 15th century by private initiative. In fact, most welfare institutions were founded by indivi¬dual or associated bourgeois, rather than by the Church or ecclesiastical establishments. Only in the city of Valencia did they reach twenty. Gradually, however, the municipal authorities were taking the lead, coordinating the various individual initiatives, until achieving the centralization of all the individual hospitals in a single general hospital. The paper also addresses the direction, management and financing of these care institu¬tions and, in particular, the role played in the latter by the so-called censals (rentes constituées in French, ‘rents’ or ‘annuities’ in English). Indeed, in addition to the management of their own assets, or donations and testamentary legacies, the main source of income of hospitals and other charitable or welfare institutions were the pensions (interests) of credits granted in the long term, or said of another mode, the purchase of debt (mainly public) issued by the municipal government and other public institutions.

Between Good Works and Good “Polizei”. The Impact of Protestantism on Social Welfare Policy: The case of Calvinist Emden

Timothy Fehler

During the course of the sixteenth century, the German port town of Emden, leapt from political and economic obscurity to become one of the most important shipping centers in northern Europe. Rapid social, political and economic changes occurred at the same time as major religious changes. The transformations of this Calvinist city provides a rich opportunity to probe the relative composition of secular and religious concerns in shaping poor relief at the local level. In the midst of a century of substantial social welfare innovations, the prime catalysts for the proliferation of poor relief organs in Emden were social and economic pressures, rather than moral and religious pressures. Careful investigation of surviving account books, bequests, mortgage/rent records, and church discipline records provide the basis for a reconstruction of the institutional frameworks and financing of Emden’s social welfare system and the extent to which it supported and excluded various welfare recipients.

During the course of the sixteenth century, the German port town of Emden, leapt from political and economic obscurity to become one of the most important shipping centers in northern Europe. Rapid social, political and economic changes occurred at the same time as major religious changes. The transformations of this Calvinist city provides a rich opportunity to probe the relative composition of secular and religious concerns in shaping poor relief at the local level. In the midst of a century of substantial social welfare innovations, the prime catalysts for the proliferation of poor relief organs in Emden were social and economic pressures, rather than moral and religious pressures. Careful investigation of surviving account books, bequests, mortgage/rent records, and church discipline records provide the basis for a reconstruction of the institutional frameworks and financing of Emden’s social welfare system and the extent to which it supported and excluded various welfare recipients.

From practices of social assistance to banking activities. The case of the Neapolitan hospitals and Monte di Pietà (14th – 17th centuries)

Paola Avallone, Gemma Teresa Colesanti, Raffaella Salvemini

The intervention will start from the late Middle Age to make a brief mention of the interventions in the field of poverty, with reference to the demand and the offer of services of assistance institutions in Naples. We will then show how, in the second half of the sixteenth century, at a time of serious economic difficulty for the Kingdom and the assistance institutions, and for a wide range of economic, financial and credit activities, the banks dealt with critical economic circumstances . The need to find new financial sources will induce some institutions to diversify services and open public money-issuing banks. We will conclude by discussing the difficulties confronted by the institutions involved in combining charity with banking, from which the need to separate the two activities in order to avoid compromising the life of the institutions, and even more so the whole economic, financial and credit system of...

The intervention will start from the late Middle Age to make a brief mention of the interventions in the field of poverty, with reference to the demand and the offer of services of assistance institutions in Naples. We will then show how, in the second half of the sixteenth century, at a time of serious economic difficulty for the Kingdom and the assistance institutions, and for a wide range of economic, financial and credit activities, the banks dealt with critical economic circumstances . The need to find new financial sources will induce some institutions to diversify services and open public money-issuing banks. We will conclude by discussing the difficulties confronted by the institutions involved in combining charity with banking, from which the need to separate the two activities in order to avoid compromising the life of the institutions, and even more so the whole economic, financial and credit system of the Kingdom.

2nd half

The Replacement of the Lombard Moneylenders by the Monts-de-Piété in the Southern Low-Countries (1618): a Pre - Modern Welfare Policy?

Myriam Greilsammer

In 1618, with the backing of the local Counter Reformation Church, the Archdukes Albert and Isabella brutally revoked the Lombards monopoly in moneylending and authorised Wenceslas Cobergher to create the Monts-de-Piété, a public institution officially aiming to lend to the poor at a low interest, inspired by the Italian model of the Monti di Pietà. Until 1633 Cobergher built and erected in the Southern Low-Countries seventeen Monts-de-Piété which must be seen as a single public institution. In opposition to the Italian model, they lent money at a 15% interest. Can we consider this decision as part of a pre-modern welfare policy or do we still have here one more traditional charitable initiative mostly inspired by Catholic piety?

In 1618, with the backing of the local Counter Reformation Church, the Archdukes Albert and Isabella brutally revoked the Lombards monopoly in moneylending and authorised Wenceslas Cobergher to create the Monts-de-Piété, a public institution officially aiming to lend to the poor at a low interest, inspired by the Italian model of the Monti di Pietà. Until 1633 Cobergher built and erected in the Southern Low-Countries seventeen Monts-de-Piété which must be seen as a single public institution. In opposition to the Italian model, they lent money at a 15% interest. Can we consider this decision as part of a pre-modern welfare policy or do we still have here one more traditional charitable initiative mostly inspired by Catholic piety?

Managing assets on behalf of the poor: the civic model of the hospitals of early modern Bologna

Mauro Carboni, Matthew Thomas Sneider

Poor relief in early modern Italy was characterized by continuity and change: traditional ospedali remained vitally important but were joined by many new institutions aimed at eliminating forms of poverty regarded as especially harmful to the community. All forms of poor relief, traditional or innovative, were expensive and depended on the effective management of institutional resources. The principal responsibility of the governors of charitable institutions was therefore the acquisition, improvement, and management of property. This paper will explore this activity, focusing on the economic history of two large medical hospitals in the city of Bologna – Santa Maria della Vita and Santa Maria della Morte – beginning with the process by which these hospitals acquired and secured their patrimonies, paying special attention to the relationship between their changing responsibilities and their changing economic strategies. It will also examine the business of patrimonial management in moments of wellbeing and crisis, stasis...

Poor relief in early modern Italy was characterized by continuity and change: traditional ospedali remained vitally important but were joined by many new institutions aimed at eliminating forms of poverty regarded as especially harmful to the community. All forms of poor relief, traditional or innovative, were expensive and depended on the effective management of institutional resources. The principal responsibility of the governors of charitable institutions was therefore the acquisition, improvement, and management of property. This paper will explore this activity, focusing on the economic history of two large medical hospitals in the city of Bologna – Santa Maria della Vita and Santa Maria della Morte – beginning with the process by which these hospitals acquired and secured their patrimonies, paying special attention to the relationship between their changing responsibilities and their changing economic strategies. It will also examine the business of patrimonial management in moments of wellbeing and crisis, stasis and transformation.

Institution and practices of social assistant: pawn-broking in Economic concern and moral connotations in Rome between 16-19 century

Donatella Strangio

The origins of the Monte di Pietà in Rome are well known: established on the initiative of Giovanni Maltei from Calvi, commissioner of the Order Francescano of Rome, and approved by Pope Paul III the Monte started operations in 1539. This paper (based on original archival sources) will document the dramatic expansion of Monte’s operations from the 16th century onwards. Particular attention will be devoted not just to ethical concerns but to the key countercyclical function played by pawnbroking activities at the lower end of the market not just from an economic viewpoint but from a political perspective as well. Indeed the Monte played an important, albeit indirect, political role, at crucial junctions in the 18th and 19th century history of papal Rome: easy access to cheap Monte credit was intrumental in keeping internal peace and preventing the flaring up of social tensions.

The origins of the Monte di Pietà in Rome are well known: established on the initiative of Giovanni Maltei from Calvi, commissioner of the Order Francescano of Rome, and approved by Pope Paul III the Monte started operations in 1539. This paper (based on original archival sources) will document the dramatic expansion of Monte’s operations from the 16th century onwards. Particular attention will be devoted not just to ethical concerns but to the key countercyclical function played by pawnbroking activities at the lower end of the market not just from an economic viewpoint but from a political perspective as well. Indeed the Monte played an important, albeit indirect, political role, at crucial junctions in the 18th and 19th century history of papal Rome: easy access to cheap Monte credit was intrumental in keeping internal peace and preventing the flaring up of social tensions.

Poverty and credit in a marginal port of the Spanish Monarchy: Buenos Aires during the 17th century

Martín L. E. Wasserman

This work proposes to identify the relationship between poverty and credit, as well as the credit incidence of ecclesiastical institutions, in a marginal and emerging society: Buenos Aires during the XVII century. The declarations of poverty on the part of the inhabitants of this port village, allow establishing the limits that the poverty condition imposed for access to credit. Therefore, it will be evaluated the role of ecclesiastical credit and its singularities in the context of an economy like this, in which the process of initial formation of the real estate market impacted on the economic rationality of local ecclesiastical institutions and on their credit mercy. The limitations of the different religious orders to deploy a charitable credit policy are identified as inherent of the economic singularities and the institutional context of this village. Original manuscripts from the National General Archive from Argentina are analyzed for this purpose.

This work proposes to identify the relationship between poverty and credit, as well as the credit incidence of ecclesiastical institutions, in a marginal and emerging society: Buenos Aires during the XVII century. The declarations of poverty on the part of the inhabitants of this port village, allow establishing the limits that the poverty condition imposed for access to credit. Therefore, it will be evaluated the role of ecclesiastical credit and its singularities in the context of an economy like this, in which the process of initial formation of the real estate market impacted on the economic rationality of local ecclesiastical institutions and on their credit mercy. The limitations of the different religious orders to deploy a charitable credit policy are identified as inherent of the economic singularities and the institutional context of this village. Original manuscripts from the National General Archive from Argentina are analyzed for this purpose.

Practices of social assistance in Northern Italy Rural Societies in the 18th Century

Luciano Maffi

This contribution proposes to reconstruct the institutions and practices of social assistance in Northern Italy rural societies in the XVIII century, through the analysis of the relationship of parishes in preparation for the pastoral visits. They concern the individual bequests that will become part of the informal “social support networks” also in rural areas: dowries for poor girls, bread, money and clothing to distribute to the poor. Emblematic is the activity of the “monti frumentari”, structures that, administered by confraternities and the other intermediate bodies, were an important activity of social support and integration to agricultural work. Also within the “social support networks” of the ancien régime the institutions of the hospitals have played a role of extreme importance, both as places of hospitality and assistance for pilgrims or the poor and as places of shelter and care for the sick.

This contribution proposes to reconstruct the institutions and practices of social assistance in Northern Italy rural societies in the XVIII century, through the analysis of the relationship of parishes in preparation for the pastoral visits. They concern the individual bequests that will become part of the informal “social support networks” also in rural areas: dowries for poor girls, bread, money and clothing to distribute to the poor. Emblematic is the activity of the “monti frumentari”, structures that, administered by confraternities and the other intermediate bodies, were an important activity of social support and integration to agricultural work. Also within the “social support networks” of the ancien régime the institutions of the hospitals have played a role of extreme importance, both as places of hospitality and assistance for pilgrims or the poor and as places of shelter and care for the sick.