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Thursday, 30 July 2015

Hospitals at the turn of the nineteenth century

By the end of the eighteenth century England was at last catching up with the rest of Europe in providing hospitals for those who were sick but couldn't afford the fees of a doctor. As this was the Age of the Enlightenment, not only were religious figures and civil authorities instituting these centers but secular humanitarians too were getting involved. By 1800 London had seven hospitals, which were handling close to 25,000 patients a year.

Meanwhile outside of the capital starting with the setting up of the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary in 1729 other cities were at last acquiring their own hospitals and by the turn of the century, all large English towns had one. However these institutions refused to treat infectious diseases restricting themselves to general ailments which could be treated with a combination of medical treatment and convalescence.

In France after years of funding the building of hospitals through public funds, Napoleon was finding his finances stretched due to the costs of his military campaigns. The emperor was forced to revert back to the time honored method of financing such institutions by pious donations and staffing them with religious orders, such as the Daughters of Charity, who particularly prospered in the nineteenth century.

In North America churches and individual doctors had been running small private hospitals since the seventeenth century. After the founding of the first general hospital in Philadelphia in 1751, other larger ones followed all catering for the sick poor. 

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