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Aristocratic Charity and Household Medicine: the management of welfare and well-being by the Dukes and Duchesses of Montagu, and Buccleuch and Dukes, 1716-1847

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posted on 14.07.2020, 14:10 by Tamar Moore
During the period 1716 to 1847 successive generations of the Dukes and Duchesses of Montagu, and Buccleuch and Queensberry, were lauded in life, and commemorated after death, for their charitableness. Known as the Montagu Douglas Scott line, they nurtured an enduring familial reputation for benevolence. This thesis tests the reality of a wide range of their charitable activities in this era, against that historical image. The recently opened family archive has yielded a plethora of rich sources making the private charitable giving and medical decisions of these Dukes and Duchesses accessible for the first time. This thesis therefore redresses the lack of detailed research into the charitable activities of aristocratic families, including their own health and welfare needs, for this time period. Focusing on five generations of Dukes and Duchesses, three with houses and estates in both England and Scotland, the variations observed are thus attributed to gender, time and place. In their own written words, the historical benevolent practices of these high-ranking donors are uncovered through their responses to private, strategic petitions from those in need of welfare, and to the rhetoric deployed in charities’ public appeals for assistance. The complexity of influences and imperatives underpinning their charitable and medical decisions are thus unravelled. These benevolent practices are located in the giving structure at large, whilst medical choices are situated in the context of what could be contemporarily supplied. Hence, a familial lens is constructed through which historical developments in charity and medicine can be viewed. The impact of the family’s charitableness on its recipients is revealed too in their petitions for assistance and in the reports of their observers. Thus, the role of this aristocratic charity is relocated in survival strategies and appraised as a source of welfare provision. Whether this was indeed a performance of noblesse oblige that went above and beyond traditional expectations of aristocratic benevolence is therefore addressed.



Elizabeth Hurren

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School of History, Politics and International Relations

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University of Leicester

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