Lying Sick to Die: Dying, Informal Care and Authority in Scotland, ca. 1600–1660

Langley, Chris R. (2017). Lying Sick to Die: Dying, Informal Care and Authority in Scotland, ca. 1600–1660. Sixteenth Century Journal, 48(1) pp. 27–46.



This paper explores the interaction between informal networks of care and ecclesiastical authorities in seventeenth-century Scotland. Previously, studies have identified poor relief and local care as a point of contention where authorities aggressively applied socioreligious reformation and created considerable local tension. This essay argues that the kirk of Scotland could not implement a single, nationwide, policy to radically alter palliative care networks as they were so variable, dependent upon local context and necessary to local life. Rather, ecclesiastical authorities accepted a variety of informal arrangements that directly impinged on their own disciplinary drive. Moreover, the essay shows that informal networks of care would co-opt official structures blurring the traditional image of polarized institutional and informal modes of care. Such relationships advance our understanding of how Reformed behavioral ideals interacted with local necessity and circumstance, while maintaining general control of the parish.

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