The Poor Laws

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss how, from 1834, poor people across England and Wales faced new obstacles when they could no longer feed or clothe themselves, or find shelter. Parliament, in line with the ideas of Jeremy Bentham and Thomas Malthus, feared hand-outs had become so attractive, they stopped people working to support themselves, and encouraged families to have more children than they could afford. To correct this, under the New Poor Laws it became harder to get any relief outside a workhouse, where families would be separated, husbands from wives, parents from children, sisters from brothers. Many found this regime inhumane, while others protested it was too lenient, and it lasted until the twentieth century.

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  • Emma Griffin 6 episodes
    Professor of Modern British History at the University of East Anglia
  • Samantha Shave No other episodes
    Lecturer in Social Policy at the University of Lincoln
  • Steven King No other episodes
    Professor of Economic and Social History at the University of Leicester

Reading list

  • Disability and Social Policy in Britain since 1750: A History of Exclusion
    Anne Borsay (Palgrave, 2005) Google Books →
  • The English Poor Laws, 1700-1930
    A. Brundage (Palgrave, 2002) Google Books →
  • The Politics of the Poor: The East End of London 1885-1914
    Marc Brodie (Oxford University Press, 2004) Google Books →
  • Workhouse: The People, The Places, The Life Behind Doors
    S. Fowler (The National Archives, 2007) Google Books →
  • Pauper Capital: London and the Poor Law 1790-1870
    David Green (Ashgate, 2010) Google Books →
  • The Solidarities of Strangers: The English Poor Laws and the People 1700-1948
    Lynn Hollen-Lees (Cambridge University Press, 1998) Google Books →
  • Obligation, Entitlement and Dispute under the English Poor Laws
    Peter Jones and S. King (eds) (Cambridge Scholars Press, 2015) Google Books →
  • Sickness, Medical Welfare and the English Poor 1750-1834
    Steve King (Manchester University Press, 2018) Google Books →
  • Poverty and Welfare in England 1700-1850: A Regional Perspective
    Steve King (Manchester University Press, 2000) Google Books →
  • Unemployment, Welfare, and Masculine Citizenship: 'so much honest poverty' in Britain, 1870-1930
    Marjorie Levine-Clark (Palgrave, 2015) Google Books →
  • Growing Public: Social Spending and Economic Growth since the Eighteenth Century
    Peter Lindert (Cambridge University Press, 2004) Google Books →
  • The Workhouse: A Study of Poor Law Buildings in England
    K. Morrison (Royal Commission on Historical Monuments, English Heritage, 1999) Google Books →
  • Agrarian Capitalism and Poor Relief in England 1500-1860: Rethinking the Origins of the Welfare State
    Larry Patriquin (Palgrave, 2007) Google Books →
  • Pauper Policies: Poor Law Practice in England 1780-1850
    Samantha Shave (Manchester University Press, 2017) Google Books →
  • Imagining Poverty: Quantification and the Decline of Paternalism
    Sandra Sherman (Ohio University Press, 2001) Google Books →
  • Parish and Belonging: Community, Identity and Welfare in England and Wales 1700-1950
    Keith Snell (Cambridge University Press, 2006) Google Books →
  • Essex Pauper Letters 1731-1837
    Thomas Sokoll (Oxford University Press, 2001) Google Books →
  • Death, Grief and Poverty in Britain, 1870-1914
    Julie-Marie Strange (Cambridge University Press, 2005) Google Books →

Related episodes

Programme ID: m0001m73

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Auto-category: 360 (Social problems and social services)

Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello. From 1834, poor people across England and Wales faced new obstacles when they could no longer feed or clothe themselves or find shelter.