contributor.author: Robert Jýtte

title.none: Rod, ed., Les hôpitaux vaudois au Moyen Ages (Robert Jýtte)

identifier.other: baj9928.0701.009 07.01.09

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Robert Jýtte, Instituts fur Geschichte der Medizin der Robert Bosch Stiftung, robert.juette@igm-bosch.de

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2007

identifier.citation: Jomini, Marie-Noëlle, and Marie-Hélène Moser and Yann Rod. Rod, Yann, ed. Les hôpitaux vaudois au Moyen Ages: Lausanne, Lutry, Yverdon. Cahiers Lausannois D'Histoire Médiévale 37. Lausanne: Université of Lausanne, 2005. Pp. xi, 432. ISBN: $35.00 2-940110-50-6.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 07.01.09

Jomini, Marie-Noëlle, and Marie-Hélène Moser and Yann Rod. Rod, Yann, ed. Les hôpitaux vaudois au Moyen Ages: Lausanne, Lutry, Yverdon. Cahiers Lausannois D'Histoire Médiévale 37. Lausanne: Université of Lausanne, 2005. Pp. xi, 432. ISBN: $35.00 2-940110-50-6.

Reviewed by:

Robert Jýtte
Instituts fur Geschichte der Medizin der Robert Bosch Stiftung
robert.juette@igm-bosch.de

Account books of hospitals are a rich source not only for the history of poverty but also for economic history. While many records of this type from the early modern period have survived, the situation is less favourable for the Middle Ages. Thus one has to thank the editors of this volume on medieval hospitals in the Lake Geneva region for bringing to our attention a series of account books from three different hospitals in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, dating from the late fourteenth to the end of the fifteenth century.

The first essay deals with the Notre-Dame hospital in Lausanne, a charitable institution founded in the middle of the fourteenth century. The account books studied here cover the period from 1374 to 1398. The unstable economy made it difficult for administrators to secure adequate income. Only 40 percent of the total income was on regular bases (rents, interest, tithes), the rest was of a rather irregular kind, e.g. sale of agricultural products (grain, wine etc.). The income from selling wine depended very much on the quantity produced in the year before the sale took place. Nothing can be said about the quality of the wine, we only know that the hospital sold "new" and "old" wine. As in most other hospitals of the later Middle Ages, much of the income (26 percent) was spent on buying food which was not produced on the farmlands owned by the hospitals. Unfortunately, the author does not give us any comparative figures from other studies on the economy of medieval hospitals, although quite a number of such investigations do exist for neighbouring countries, e. g. for France, Germany, Austria, and the Holy Roman Empire. The reader has to draw his own conclusions, for example, to find out by himself whether the comparatively small budget for fish (4, 8 percent of the total expenditure for food) was typical for a charitable institution of this kind at the end of the fourteenth century. The author of this case study did not even care to compare his findings with those of the other studies gathered in this volume. Despite such flaws the detailed analysis of the account books still has its rewards. One gets, for instance, information on the practice and pay of wet-nurses in the countryside and on the different wages for male and female agricultural workers.

The hospital in Lutry near Lausanne was also founded around 1350. A meticulous study of the account books from the years 1415 to 1470 reveals similar trends as those of the Notre Dame-Hospital. The hospital got five percent interest on loans, in line with the strict rules set up by the Christian Church to avoid usury. The sale of wine too made up a considerable part of the "irregular" income. As this hospital was established for the care of pilgrims, treatment of the sick (in normal years between one and five percent of the total expenditure) is also mentioned frequently in the account books.

The third hospital studied in this volume is the one in Yverdon, founded at the beginning of the fourteenth century. The rather long series of fiscal records now in the municipal archives, covering the years 1392 to 1493, make it possible to study long term changes and trends. The percentage of the regular income varies from 40 to 70 percent. It seems that meat became less important during the fifteenth century, the account books showing a rising percentage of expenses on fish. Medical historians will be particularly interested to read about the increasing pay of wet-nursing services when the child stayed longer than one year with such a woman taking care of the well-being of the orphan of whom the hospital was in charge. Another interesting "trouvaille" is that white bread was reserved for the diet of the sick. All others had to be content with rye bread.

To sum up: the three studies assembled in this volume enhance our knowledge about the economy of the late medieval hospital. The general reader would have appreciated if the authors had linked their findings with those of similar studies. Notably, only French literature is cited in the bibliography. Such a parochial approach is detrimental for scientific research.

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