Welfare for the Wounded

The Civil Wars of the 17th century prompted pioneering medical care and welfare, provided by the state not just for soldiers but for the widows and children they left behind, as Eric Gruber von Arni and Andrew Hopper show.

Ely House, London. From a print by F. Grose, c.1783

Historians of the Civil Wars are beginning to take notice of these bloody conflicts as a critical moment in the history of welfare. Previous conflicts had seen commanders demonstrate little concern for the welfare of sick and injured soldiers and they devoted few resources to them. Yet during the Civil Wars, Parliament’s concern for the ‘commonweal’ led to centralised care for those who had suffered ‘in the State’s service’. These innovative measures were immensely significant as, for some, they led to improved medical treatment, permanent military hospitals and a national pension scheme.

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