Just when you might think that the funding crisis in the NHS was a thoroughly modern problem, it seems that hospitals in the Middle Ages struggled too! A dig at a medieval lepers hospital near Winchester shows that funding could run dry and mean the withdrawal of services too, just like services in the NHS are being cut back at the moment due to budgets not keeping step with demand.
In the case of the hospital of St Mary Magdalen near Winchester though it seems that the problem of leprosy was going away so the money dried up:
But by 1334 bailouts were being paid to keep the hospital going, perhaps because leprosy was declining as a problem. By the 16th century it was operating more as an almshouse and looks to have avoided closure in the Dissolution of the Monasteries ordered by Henry VIII that saw the end of establishments such as Hyde Abbey in Winchester and Netley Abbey near Southampton.
If you didn’t have leprosy then the options were limited – and of course most lepers hospitals were really intended to keep those afflicted away from the rest of the population rather than treat them.
A new research paper, Diaspora and identity in the Viking Age, published in the Early Medieval Europe journal by Lesley Abrams looks into the terminology and evidence for a ‘diaspora’ amongst the Vikings in the early medieval period. There are a number of issues involved:
Is diaspora an appropriate term – is it friendlier than colonialism for instance, and is the use of it by historians intended to present the spread of the Vikings in a particular way.
Are all Scandinavian people Vikings? And if so, is Viking a good term, or should Norse be used?
What nature did the spread of the Vikings take? Was their a consistent approach and did the different communities maintain links with each other?
Lesley Abrams matches the characteristics of the spread of the Vikings against Robin Cohen’s Global Diasporas summarized as follows:
dispersal from an original homeland to two or more foreign regions;
expansion in search of work, in pursuit of trade, or to further colonial ambitions;
a collective memory and myth about the homeland, real or imagined;
an idealization of the homeland and a collective commitment to its thriving;
a movement to return to or at least maintain a connection with the homeland;
a strong ethnic group consciousness, maintained over time;
a troubled relationship with the host society;
a sense of empathy and co-responsibility with co-ethnic members in other countries;
the possibility of an enriched creative life in the host country.
And she concludes that in the end the was a diaspora of sorts:
Broadly speaking, however, we might already be able to speculate that for a period the dispersed Scandinavian communities of the Viking Age acted like a diaspora, retaining, synthesizing, and expressing a sense of collective identity and constructing a common cultural discourse, while new circumstances generated innovations and developments which flowed back and forth between them. ‘Diaspora’, then, is arguably not just a buzzword, nor simply a fashionable synonym, but an exploratory concept that offers a new perspective on the Viking Age. Its adoption should give the overseas settlements a greater cultural profile and a more significant role as agents of change, both in their new environments and back home.