|Inmates - Their Life Before, In and Beyond the Hospital in the Late 18th and Early 19th Centuries|
|In the 16th century in Hessen four hospitals had been founded by the Hessian landgrave Philipp. Although situated in different parts of the country, there was a joint administration until the early 19th century. In addition to the existing hospitals in the cities these new institutions had to fill up the poor relief in the countryside. Countrymen und -women were admitted to these hospitals, when being unable to supply themselves - in most cases because of chronicle diseases and disabilities of various kinds.
The rich sources of the archive allow manifold studies in the history of hospitals as well as in patients’ history. Within a research-project promoted by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft we are especially interested in questions concerning coping with sickness and disability within the rural society in the 18th and early 19th centuries. This paper also refers to this context.
I will focus on the hospital Haina near Marburg and on the hospital Merxhausen near by Kassel. The first one was for men, the latter for women only. Both together had a capacity of about 500 places at the end of the 18th century.
Very important for our questions is the analysis of the documents that had to be generated in order to request for reception. Besides the supplication itself a medical certificate was indispensable. Furthermore the mayor of the village had to testify the economical and social situation of a person. The country parson copied the parish register, and often he rendered his opinion as well. To sum up: These sources contain descriptions and informations about one ill or in some way handicapped person from different points of view.
The reception to the hospital principally meant a lifelong supply and stay. Nevertheless those inmates estimated to be able to leave the hospital were to be named once a year. The following discussion between the medical staff and the administration of the hospitals in these cases supplies us with further information about the actual situation of the inmates as well as concerning the likely perspective of life after leaving. Actually many inmates registered in these specification lists stayed. For others the hospitals were just an intermediate station.
In my study I will try to reconstruct managing one’s life under conditions of chronicle disease and disability in the villages. Maybe, typical items and settings to request for reception to the hospital can be outlined. In particular concerning those inmates who left the institution afterwards, it will be interesting to know the reasons why care and welfare work ended, and furthermore, how these ex-inmates succeeded to manage their life beyond the hospitals.|