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Children in Need: An Exploration of Child Health and Hospital Provision in Medieval England

HOOKWAY, Esme (2022) Children in Need: An Exploration of Child Health and Hospital Provision in Medieval England. Doctoral thesis, Staffordshire University.

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Abstract or description

This thesis presents an investigation into the health status of non-adults (<18 years of age) from English later medieval hospital sites (A.D. 1066-1550). Non-adults are rarely referenced in historical documentation relating to medieval hospital sites, and consequently, little is known about their presence within these institutions. For this thesis, existing archaeological and osteological data from 40 hospital sites, containing data on the skeletal remains of a total of 1,506 non-adults, were compiled. These secondary data were explored to identify skeletal indicators of disease, trauma, and general stress experienced by non-adults. Statistical analyses were conducted to explore health status in relation to factors including age and type of hospital (general hospital, leprosaria, and almshouse).

Once the health status of the non-adults was established, three strands of enquiry were conducted. Firstly, familial, social, economic, and environmental influences on the development and health of non-adults during the medieval period, were investigated. Secondly, the role of the medieval hospital in providing spiritual, practical, and medicinal aid to non-adults were explored. Finally, the burial practices employed by hospitals for the interment of non-adults were examined. The health statuses of non-adults from hospital sites were contextualised through comparisons with contemporary parish and monastic cemetery populations. Additionally, historical sources and modern-day clinical studies were utilised to develop an understanding of the progress of certain pathologies, the use of traditional treatments, and differing societal attitudes to disease.

Demographic differences were found between the cemetery populations of different types of hospitals, with higher rates of younger juveniles identified at leprosaria, and greater numbers of adolescents reported from urban general hospitals. Further disparities were identified in the health status of non-adults by age category. Distinctions in burial practices were also discovered between non-adults in different age categories, which may also reflect differences in local customs or beliefs. The findings of this investigation confirm that medieval hospitals were demographically diverse institutions, nonetheless, non-adults were present in many hospitals. The data indicate that many of the non-adults buried in medieval hospital sites were from low socio-economic status backgrounds, and were at an elevated risk of ill health, yet, they received care within hospital institutions and were afforded a respectful and proper burial.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty: School of Law, Policing and Forensics > Forensic Sciences and Policing
Depositing User: Library STORE team
Date Deposited: 31 Oct 2023 14:32
Last Modified: 31 Oct 2023 14:32

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