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Reconstructing the Labour of Care in Early Modern England

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jats:titleAbstract</jats:title>jats:pUncertainty about what constitutes work in the past has led to the labour of care occupying a shadowy place in the histories of both medicine and the economy. This article takes a microhistorical approach to shed new light on care in early modern England. Using depositions and other surviving records of a testamentary dispute heard in the Hereford diocesan church court in 1674–5, the article reconstructs the care received by a single, labouring man named Richard Howell. Focusing on forms of care that lay outside institutions, it unpicks the varieties of informal labour that society understood as care work in early modern England, including maintenance (provision of economic support for the sick, including lodging, food, and drink); physical or practical care (watching or attending the sick); and the emotional labour of care. The article challenges the idea that care work was simply undertaken by the family or carried out within a system of social obligation. It demonstrates that all forms of care in this pre-industrial society implicitly (and sometimes explicitly) held economic value, which could be leveraged as grounds for economic recompense in the early modern courts.</jats:p>



4303 Historical Studies, 43 History, Heritage and Archaeology, Generic health relevance

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The Historical Journal

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Cambridge University Press (CUP)