Tomas Coram and the London Foundling Hospital in Eighteenth-Century Britain
Thomas Coram established the London Foundling Hospital in Great Britain in 1739. Research on Coram and the London Foundling Hospital has generally examined Coram’s biography as well as the methods of the hospital in caring for children, while overlooking indepth qualitative analysis of Coram’s motivations. In this paper, I considered sociological perspectives regarding the motivations of Coram in establishing the Foundling Hospital. I used documentary analysis of Coram’s correspondence, his personal petition to King George II, and the Royal Charter for the Incorporation of the Foundling Hospital to examine the reasons why a semi-retired seaman (whose usual concerns might have been far removed from promoting the well-being of children) was motivated to provide deserted children with a residential institution. I found that Coram had both utilitarian and altruistic motivations in setting up the hospital. His utilitarian motivations can be seen in his personal petition to the King, in which he stated that one of the aims of the Foundling Hospital was to transform abandoned children, who were considered a public nuisance, into good servants and useful soldiers for the country. Coram might have deliberately shown his utilitarian motivation to provide pragmatic benefits for the foundling cause, particularly at the time when Britain was continuously engaged in wars in neighboring countries. Coram's altruistic motivation can be seen in his commitment to his belief that foundling children should be properly cared for and educated, with the goal that they areeventually able to support themselves. To achieve his goal, he systematically lobbied influential individuals, in person, to collect their signatures. This lobbying at last enabled him to obtain a Charter of Incorporation from the King. Although this petitioning occupied seventeen years of his life, he finally collected 375 signatures from 89 nobles and 286 commoners who supported his project. It might be suggested that the nearly twenty years of campaigning could be explained by Coram's utilitarian and altruistic attitudes.
Bulletin of the Graduate School of Integrated Arts and Sciences, Hiroshima University. II, Studies in environmental sciences
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