Thomas Coram, Gent

Book Cover: Thomas Coram, GentBy Gillian Wagner.
The Boydell Press
ISBN 1843830574

Star rating: 4/5

This is the story of a man of integrity born into an age of corruption, writes Chris Hanvey. Thomas Coram, sailor, shipwright, founder of colonies and creator of the Foundling Hospital, had an energy and doggedness that drove his personality.

The second half of Coram’s life – from 1722 onwards – is relatively well charted, but with infinite skill Gillian Wagner has pieced together the earlier years. An integrity that characterised his successful apprenticeship as a shipwright and the move to New England, in order to promote and build ships, would leave Coram ostracised and penniless. But it also led to the petition and charter for the Foundling Hospital itself. Wagner’s skill is in letting Coram, the man, emerge from letters and events. His dedication and single-mindedness also led to Coram’s removal from the very body of governors he had founded. This is not just a scholarly account of an outstanding reformer, but a powerful lesson for those wishing to understand how the past has shaped our present services.

Chris Hanvey is UK director of operations, Barnardo’s.

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