New geographies of the new Poor Law in England and Wales

Brown, Douglas (2020) New geographies of the new Poor Law in England and Wales. In: Gestrich, A. , Gruner, E. and Hahn, S., (eds.) Poverty in modern Europe : spaces, localities, institutions. Oxford University Press. (In Press)


The history of poor law reform might appear to show a revolution in poor relief after 1834. Yet in reality policy did not translate into practice with any degree of uniformity. Some parishes formed unions readily, and were keen to adopt the principles of the new system. But in many parts of England and Wales, especially in the Midlands and the North of England, local elites opposed the changes which they perceived as unsuited to their districts. This chapter argues that place and time are both key considerations for our understanding of the poor law, but that different geographic scales must also be taken into account. Within the regional and long-term trends can be discerned important local and temporal variations. This is visible in the changing strategies used by different types of paupers for obtaining relief.

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