Compared to doctors, patients and institutions, visitors are an understudied constituency in medical history. The collection of essays in this book situates the historical practice of hospital and asylum visiting in broad social, cultural and geographical perspectives. This introduction loosely categorises visitors into four groups: patient visitors, including family and friends; public visitors, such as entertainers, tourists and the clergy, who have no direct formal ties with the institution or the patients; house visitors involved with the management and government of the hospital; and official visitors, who have inspectorial responsibilities. Discussion of the wider historical significance of visiting draws attention to issues such as urban governance, philanthropy, the public sphere, civil society and citizenship.
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