Cissie Fairchilds, Poverty and Charity in Aix-en-Provence 1640-1789 (via mare-of-night)
Id be curious to know what the churches were up to though? like it might be more reasonable to rely on private or church initiative in the 17th century than it would be today because the Catholic Church like — we poke fun at it and all but it wasn’t absolutely devoid of public assistance so?
Based on the rest of this chapter, the church offering assistance was the old way to do it, before the Protestant Reformation. Around the same time as the Reformation, the Catholic Church had a Counter-Reformation where they changed some things in response to the Protestants’ criticisms. This included people getting really suspicious of the existing church-owned charities, because the clergy who ran them sometimes stole from them (they relied at least partly on donations from lay persons), and other times just weren’t interested in them and managed them poorly.
The crown was very happy with charity not belonging only to the Church anymore, since they wanted to expand the royal government’s power to include more things in general. But the royal government wasn’t powerful or well-funded enough to take on a decent national public assistance project. The king still wanted to look like he was managing the country’s charity projects, so occasionally he’d give vague orders like that and leave them to someone else to carry out.
But people still associated charity with being a good Christian/Catholic, so relying on private assistance actually did work. People didn’t trust the clergy to run charities, so people who were feeling pious would donate to privately-run charities, or start their own. The author of the book seems to think this resulted in better-run charities.
In the town being studied, there were also a lot more charities after the church lost control of them. I’m not sure how much of that is people wanting to stand out by becoming charity founders, and how much is changes in people’s thinking about who deserves charity. Back when the church was running things, the town had four charities that all cared for sick people only. but in the 1630s eight new ones were founded, and then seven more in the 1680s. In addition to hospitals, I think I remember two orphanages (one for boys and one for girls), care for the elderly, legal help for the poor, buying freedom for Christians enslaved abroad, bringing food and clothing to people in prison, shelters for “fallen women” and beggars, and an insane asylum.