The Orphans of Byzantium
Child Welfare in the Christian Empire
In The Orphans of Byzantium, Miller provides a perceptive and original study of the evolution of orphanages in the Byzantine Empire. Contrary to popular belief and even expert opinion, medieval child-welfare systems were sophisticated, especially in the Byzantine world. Combining ancient Roman legal institutions with Christian concepts of charity, the Byzantine Empire evolved a child-welfare system that tried either to select foster parents for homeless children or to place them in group homes that could provide food, shelter, and education. Miller discusses how successive Byzantine emperors tried to improve Roman regulations to provide greater security for orphans, and notes that they achieved their greatest success when they widened the pool of potential guardians by allowing women relatives to accept the duties of guardianship.
After a thorough discussion of each element of the Byzantine child care system, the book closes by showing how Byzantine orphanages provided models for later Western group homes, especially in Italy. From these renaissance orphan asylums evolved the system of modern European and American religious orphanages until the foster care movement emerged at the beginning of the twentieth century. Miller's study of these systems can provide useful models for reforming the troubled child-welfare system today.
About the Author
"Timothy Miller has become an expert on the Byzantine Empire's system of social welfare, and here he provides an exhaustive study at a millennium of Byzantine care of orphans. . . . Miller's work is, by any gauge, thorough, and while there is not a plethora of evidence on this topic, readers can be sure that Miller has carefully analysed what there is."—Catholic Library World
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