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Title: The Chelsea out-pensioners : image and reality in eighteenth-century and early nineteenth-century social care
Author: Nielsen, Caroline Louise
ISNI:       0000 0004 5361 1497
Awarding Body: University of Newcastle Upon Tyne
Current Institution: University of Newcastle upon Tyne
Date of Award: 2014
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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.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available