The influx of Protestant exiles posed serious problems for the Geneva government from the middle of the 16th century. How to provide assistance to these people, most of whom arrived completely destitute? The founding of a special welfare institution, the “Bourse Française”, was the answer to the problem. It was set up in the late 1540s, thanks to a donation allegedly made by a wealthy refugee, and attracted further financial contributions from the city itself and from abroad. It survived for more than three centuries. Thus the “Bourse Française” also helped the refugees who came to Geneva after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685. This new influx is called the “Second Refuge” to distinguish it from the “First Refuge”, the one of the 16th century. The aid of the French Bourse consisted, for refugees passing through, in the granting of a viaticum, a term designating the money necessary to complete a journey. For those who were forced to stay longer due to illness or old age, it provided assistance in kind, corresponding to our present subsistence minimum. It also paid for medicines or hospital stays, placed orphans with families and sometimes paid for apprenticeships.
As early as the 1550s, similar institutions were set up for Italian and German refugees. As for the Genevans who had fallen into poverty, they were cared for by the General Hospital from which the objects presented in this room come. The tureens and tin dishes presented here date from the 17th and 18th centuries and were used in the General Hospital. They were used to feed the needy and refugees treated at the General Hospital after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685.