“A house dedicated to God”: Social Welfare and the General Hospital in Reformation Geneva, 1535-1564

My dissertation examines the many functions — religious, political, social, and cultural — of the newly developed General Hospital in Calvin’s Geneva. The hospital provided a wide range of social welfare services well beyond medical interventions and hospitality, including raising orphans, providing alms to needy families, and paying to bury the poor. The hospital’s board of directors, whom Calvin considered deacons, were increasingly involved with the city’s semi-ecclesiastical institution of the Consistory and supplemented the Consistory’s disciplinary efforts in their attempts to ensure that the hospital provided aid only to the “worthy” poor. Beyond examining the functions of the hospital qua alms institution, my dissertation considers the ways in which the hospital functioned paternalistically and as a family: nurturing Genevans physically and spiritually throughout the lifecycle, and also meting out punishment when alms recipients failed to uphold civic expectations.

Chapter 1: Administrative Biography

Chapter 2: Child Care and Social Welfare: Support in Infancy and Childhood

Chapter 3: Learning and Earning a Life: Exterior Youth Placement

Chapter 4: The Struggling Household: Support for Adults

Chapter 5: Vagrants and Immigrants: Care for Outsiders

Chapter 6: Illness, Old Age, and Death