The Medieval History Of Our Modern Hospitals
History has a way of revisiting itself. A recent example is an interview of History Professor Adam Davis by his former student Rick Brewer ‘16 on Iowa Public Radio. Brewer was a guest host on the River to River segment, and brought his mentor to the show to unpack the history of hospitals in medieval Europe and help us see the modern parallels of these systems and institutions.
Listen to it on Iowa Public Radio.
Many of the hospitals from the middle ages provided services outside of caring for the sick. These services included, supplying loans, owning land, banking, distributing food, caring for the poor, and in some ways, were at the heart of social networks in the lives of medieval people.
One of the many comparisons Davis makes to our modern hospital system is the emergence of medieval hospitals as ‘big business.’ Davis writes that “from the time of their medieval origins as Christian charitable institutions, hospitals were inextricably tied to markets and an expanding profit economy while also serving as sites of evangelical devotion.”
Davis is the author of the new book “The Medieval Economy of Salvation: Charity, Commerce and the Rise of the Hospital” and a professor of history at Denison University (Granville, OH) where he is also the director of the Lisska Center for Scholarly Engagement.