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Revealing Cosmopolitanism Through an Examination of Informal Elder Care in Seventeenth-Eighteenth Century England and Nineteenth Century Colonial North America
Informal caregiving encompasses the motivations and practices of relatives in looking after family members of all ages with long-term illnesses and disabilities. Only recently has it been differentiated as a distinct role within the nurturance obligations of familial roles. As such, informal caregiving has been recognised through contemporary social movements in many countries, such as Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. At the same time, there is an increasing interest in caregiving in history which elucidates the care needed and offered at different historical moments. Our aim here is to examine the minutiae and intimacies of care practices between caregiver and the recipient of care in two different periods of time, seventeenth century England and colonial America. We suggest that these data support the notion that care is a fundamental social human dynamic, connecting caregivers from early to contemporary times. Caregivers can be viewed as a shared global community, transcending community and time; at the same time acts of caregiving represent the humanitarian ideals of cosmopolitanism.