What exactly are people doing when they combat about reforming complex social institutions? How do the advocates and the adversaries of such reforms construct their arguments? How do historical debates on reforms differ from modern ones? The book approaches these questions from the observatory of the late middle ages and the 16th century and is intended to be a contribution to a rhetoric of premodern reform thinking. The setting is the hospital, an institution which was frequently in need of reform, but compact enough to allow detailed description. Four important European hospitals—the Ospedale Maggiore of Milan, the Hôtel-Dieu of Paris, the Große Spital of Strasbourg, and the Union of hospitals in Modena, Italy—offer sufficient source material for an analysis of the verbal (and sometimes physical) strives provoked by the reforms. The protagonists of these debates about words, metaphors, concepts and power were jurists, theologians, political authorities, administrators, religious communities and the lay staff.