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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10443/2702

Title: The Chelsea out-pensioners :image and reality in eighteenth-century and early nineteenth-century social care
Authors: Nielsen, Caroline Louise
Issue Date: 2014
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: The residential Royal Hospital of Chelsea for ‘old, lame and infirme’ soldiers was founded in 1681. Within a decade, this small hospital rapidly became the centre of one of the most extensive and efficient occupational and disability pension systems that has ever existed in Britain: the Chelsea Out-Pension. Over the course of the long eighteenth-century, the Hospital conducted over 80,000 investigations into the medical problems and service histories of poor and sickly men, setting contemporary standards of male fitness and pensionable physical infirmity. This thesis is the first modern study to explore and contextualize this complex pension system in detail. It locates their experiences in wider social debates about the Poor Law, philanthropy, and the perceived implications of continuous welfare relief in early modern society. A detailed account of the development and bureaucracy of the pension administration is given, exploiting original research into the Hospital’s vast surviving archive. The pension system was based on a system of legally enshrined regular medical examinations designed to avoid accusations of improvidence. Surgeons and civil servants were in effect offering a legal guarantee about the aetiologies of men’s long-term disabilities. In practice, however, Chelsea’s rigid admission structures were frequently undermined by prevailing notions of paternalism, social status, and patriotic philanthropy. This study highlights how a small number of Pensioners responded to this system and the attitudes which surrounded it. The demographic characteristics of the Out-Pensioners between 1715 and 1793 are analysed, demonstrating the fluid nature of the concept of total physical impairment. Finally, the thesis surveys the evolving cultural identity of the ‘veteran’ old soldier. The maimed body of the aging soldier became an unlikely exemplar of British masculine national identity, wherein personal narratives of familial domesticity compensated for emasculating disability and declining physical health.
Description: PhD Thesis
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10443/2702
Appears in Collections:School of History, Classics and Archaeology

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