Thomas Coram, Gent.

Thomas Coram, Gent.


Gillian Wagner


Currently out of stock

Boydell Press



Thomas Coram was a supporter of women's and children's rights long before such causes became fashionable and founder of the children's hospital charity which still bears his name. This acclaimed biography unravels the many sides of this remarkable private man.
Thomas Coram is forever identified with the foundling hospital he established in 1739. This, however, came near the end of his life: previous records seemed few and far between until Gillian Wagner began to look at the scarce but intriguing evidence for his earlier career.

As a young man Coram went to Massachusetts, where he stayed for ten years building ships in Boston and Taunton, working to further the spread of Anglicanism. He returned to England disappointed and heavily in debt. Surviving this early setback, he slowly secured for himself a place within English society through his championing of further settlements to exploit America's natural resources, and his characteristic support for radical causes.

A strong believer in women's rights and equal opportunities for girls, he believed that it was due to the unique support of a group of aristocratic women - twenty-one ladies of quality and distinction - that he was granted a royal charter for his foundling hospital. Within two years of the establishment of the hospital, Coram fell out with the governors and was ejected from the governing body.

His last years were clouded by disagreements and poverty, but a pension, granted in 1749, finally signalled recognition of his achievements. He died in 1751 and was buried in the chapel of his hospital.

GILLIAN WAGNER was the first woman to chair the Thomas Coram Foundation, successor to the foundling Hospital and which continues as the children's charity Coram, and Barnardo's - whose founder's biography she has also written. Her other books include Children of the Empire, the story of children sent to live and work in Canada and Australia in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. She has had a long and noteworthy involvement with the voluntary sector (in particular, chairing the influential review into residential care, 'A Positive Choice'), and was created a Dame in 1994.


1 colour, 17 black and white, 2 line illustrations
228 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
Paperback, 9781783270606, April 2015
Hardback, 9781843830573, August 2004
Boydell Press
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Table of Contents

The making of the man, 1668-1693
Shipbuilding in New England
Trouble in Taunton
A new beginning
A seed is sown
Coram, Francis Grueber and David Dunbar
First success
The lure of America
American correspondence
'My darling project'
A shameful episode
Coram in exile
A gift misused
The pensioner
Epilogue: A short history of the Foundling Hospital and successor bodies


Provides a valuable insight into society, culture, and the politics of charity. It will be of value to anyone interested in charity or this rich period of British history. (...) Provides a celebration of the man and his achievements and, as such, it is also a testimony to basic human energy and compassion. H-NET BOOK REVIEW
Offers a rich insight into the culture and mental world of Hanoverian England. Handel and Hogarth are among the luminaries who flit across its pages, personalities are given life in engaging pen-portraits, and the evocation of London is by turns charmingly vivid and unsparing in its harrowing detail. (...) It was partly through (Coram's) labours that charitable endeavour became formidably organised, endowed with formal status, and made, above all, fashionable, as an extension of politics and the arts. ENGLISH HISTORICAL REVIEW
An account which is rigorously unsentimental, a measured biography which does much to flesh out Thomas Coram. TLS
A much-needed biography of this early pioneer of children's charity. SEVENTEENTH-CENTURY NEWS