The essay reflects on some questions raised by recent studies on early modern hospitals, underlining the research potentials of this historiographical object. The first part reveals the different disciplines, methodologies and perspectives that can be used to study hospitals or assistance networks by discussing two books focused on charitable institutions of Venice (C. Giron-Panel, Musique et musiciennes à Venise. Histoire sociale des ospedali, École française de Rome, Roma 2015; La chiesa e l’ospedale di San Lazzaro dei Mendicanti. Arte, beneficenza, cura, devozione, educazione, eds. A. Bamji, L. Borean, L. Moretti, Marcianum Press, Venezia 2015). The second part connects some of the themes that emerged from the reading of this new works to wider trends in the research on early modern assistance and poor relief. The focus is on the evolution of the ideas on pauperism, with particular attention to the pedagogic function of the charitable institutions and the need to connect theory and practices. Finally, the analysis broadens to include the connections between the history of hospitals and the history of medicine. This approach can allow us to detect multiple research paths, shedding light on the various actors and places devoted to healthcare and the entanglement of spiritual and physical therapies.
Keywords: Hospitals; Early modern Venice; Assistance; Medicine and Religion