The impact of Sturges Bourne's Poor Law reforms in rural England

Shave, Samantha (2013) The impact of Sturges Bourne's Poor Law reforms in rural England. The Historical Journal, 56 (2). pp. 399-429. ISSN 0018-246X

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England was blighted by frequent agricultural depressions in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Recurrent crises brought poor law reform to the parliamentary agenda and led to the passage of two non-compulsory pieces of legislation, Sturges Bourne's Acts of 1818 and 1819. These permissory acts allowed parishes to ‘tighten up’ the distribution of poor relief through two vital tools: the formation of select vestries, and the appointment of waged assistant overseers. Whilst previous studies have tended to represent the legislation as a failing reform in the dying days of the old poor law, we know remarkably little about the relief practices deployed by parishes operating under the auspices of Sturges Bourne's Acts. This article starts by detailing the genesis of the reforms before considering the provisions of the acts and their rates of adoption in rural England. Focusing upon administrative records from Wessex and West Sussex, the article proceeds to examine the inspection of relief claimants, and judgments made as to their ‘character and conduct’; the general measures taken to reduce outdoor relief; and their alternative strategies for allocating relief. It is argued that the reforms re-drew the distinction between ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ poor, ultimately changing individuals' and families' entitlement to relief under the old poor laws.

Keywords:poor laws, old poor laws, social policy, Welfare, nineteenth century, poverty, allotments, workhouses, England
Subjects:V Historical and Philosophical studies > V214 English History
V Historical and Philosophical studies > V144 Modern History 1800-1899
V Historical and Philosophical studies > V320 Social History
Divisions:College of Arts > School of History & Heritage > School of History & Heritage (History)
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ID Code:30593
Deposited On:24 Apr 2018 08:33

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