The subject of community has been researched extensively by sociologists and anthropologists, less so by historians. The 2009 conference challenged participants to consider the idea of community in relationship to the hospital and, particularly, to reflect on how historians should approach the wide range of communities that continue to be shaped by the work of these institutions. Collectively, the case studies in this volume demonstrate that navigation of the history of hospitals requires an understanding of the societies in which these institutions operated. In other words, hospital histories are not just stories about medical institutions; they offer considerable insight into the communities in which they were situated and with which they intersected.
J. Reinarz, C. Bonfield and T. Huguet-Termes Introduction: Hospitals and Communities
Jonathan Reinarz, Christopher Bonfield and Teresa Huguet-Termes Introduction: Hospitals and Communities A brief glance at some notable hospital histories demonstrates that most existing institutional studies set the hospital within a discussion of its immediate community.1 Some historians have even argued that the hos- pital is the community, thereby fuelling interest in the emergence of these localised institutions and lending considerable relevance to their study.2 This is perhaps more easily recognized in the case of isolated hospitals, such as island lazaretti, or sprawling institutions, such as those built for the long-term resident, or often elderly, poor. Rarely, however, have histories of hospitals, or health care for that matter, considered this relationship in greater depth, or attempted to problematize discussions of hospitals and communities as is attempted in this volume. To most historians, the concept seems straightforward enough. The hospital is situated in a particular com- munity, almost always a neighbouring one that it was originally intended to serve. The governors and staf f also often stem from the neighbourhood and, with some exceptions, the patients overwhelmingly reside within a short distance of the institution. Fund-raising is undertaken primarily in the surrounding region, or in those groups directly served by the hospi- tal. Over time, the institution may even be referred to as the ‘community hospital’, in order to emphasize its rootedness in a particular locality. Any closure, or change at the hospital, tends to impact most upon those living 1 For instance, see M. Rubin, Charity and Community in Medieval Cambridge...
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