Monthly Archives: August 2013

History of the English Poor Law

I have completed a set of notes (43 pages of them!) suitable for academic use (ie every note has a page number and every included quote has a reference) of:

Sidney & Beatrice Webb’s English Poor Law History 1927.  

This book covers the activity of the state, operating through local parishes and JPs both for relief of the poor and the suppression of ‘vagrancy’ from 1350 to 1834 when the new “Poor Law Amendment Act” came into force.  The book is remarkably relevant to today.  It shows that everything which the current (2013) government is doing in the benefit system has been done before and been found to FAIL both on humanitarian, and, to this government even more importantly, financial, grounds.  Basically, ideas such as:

  • forcing those who are receiving benefits to work (workfare/sanctions)
  • sending people to employers for free (workfare)
  • subsidising employment rather than requiring that employers pay sufficient for a basic life (tax credits in the context of rising prices and falling real value of the minimum wage)
  • harassment of benefit recipients

have all been done before.  Even in the context of the Old Poor Law’s primary context of a desire to avoid trouble, riot, disturbance, begging and crime – these methods FAILED.

It has been a lot of work for me to produce these notes (for my own interest and purposes) so I am not going to freely publish them, but I AM willing to share them.  Since I have no noticeable income I would appreciate donations if anyone would like a copy.  I will try to arrange (I don’t know how) to have a Paypal button for the purpose here, but if I don’t manage that, I can receive Paypal donations through my email address elspeth.parris@btinternet.com.  Please put a comment in the message box as to whether you would wish for hard copy or a digital copy.  For hard copy, donations for the purpose must be at least £5 (to cover printing and postage) plus whatever you feel appropriate for my efforts.