The Urban Poor Law

Part of the Problems in Focus Series book series (PFS)


The nineteenth century witnessed an urban as well as an industrial revolution, in which expanding towns grappled with the problems created by rapid economic and social change. For several important provincial centres, however, such as Exeter, Bath, Norwich and Shrewsbury, it was a period, not of unparalleled growth, but of stagnation. Their experience serves as a reminder of the variety of urban history; under the New Poor Law, as under the old, diversity was often the system’s most conspicuous characteristic.


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Bibliographical Notes

  1. Much of the work done on the urban Poor Law is contained in unpublished theses. Some of these are mentioned in the Notes and References, while others which have proved useful include those by Rose, Caplan, Kelly, Handley, and Midwinter.Google Scholar
  2. Popular resistance to the New Poor Law and the early conflicts between the Poor Law Commission and the northern boards of guardians are dealt with in N. C. Edsall, The Anti-Poor Law Movement, 1834–44 (Manchester, 1971), which may be supplemented by M. E. Rose, ‘The Anti-Poor Law Movement in the North of England’, Northern History, I (1966). N. McCord, ‘The Implementation of the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act on Tyneside’, International Review of Social History, XIV (1969) reminds us that not all industrial areas stood out against the new measure.Google Scholar
  3. R. Boyson, ‘The New Poor Law in North-East Lancashire, 1834–1871’ Transactions of the Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society, LXX (1960) studies the impact of the New Poor Law on seven Lancashire unions, a theme taken up by E. C. Midwinter, Social Administration in Lancashire, 1830–1860 (Manchester, 1969). The same author’s’ state Intervention at the Local Level: The New Poor Law in Lancashire’, H.J., X (1967) emphasises the continuity between the old and new systems of relief, while M. E. Rose, ‘The New Poor Law in an Industrial Area’, in The Industrial Revolution ed. R. M. Hartwell (Oxford, 1970), analyses the failure of the New Poor Law in the industrial north.Google Scholar
  4. The central authority’s attempts to regulate outdoor relief and, in particular, to eliminate the payment of relief in aid of wages, are discussed by M. E. Rose, ‘The Allowance System under the New Poor Law’, Ec.H.R., 2nd series, XIX (1966), while W. o. Henderson, The Lancashire Cotton Famine, 1861–1865, 2nd edn (Manchester, 1969), describes the efforts made to deal with a massive outbreak of unemployment and the changes that resulted.Google Scholar
  5. P. Dunkley, ‘The “Hungry Forties” and the New Poor Law: A Case Study’, H.J., XVII (1974) describes how relief policy in Durham varied in response to economic fluctuations, and M. Caplan, ‘The hPoor Law in Nottinghamshire, 1836–71,’ Thoroton Society Transactions, LXXIV (1970) examines poor relief in Southwell and Basford, where domestic framework knitting was a key industry. Other local studies include S. I. Richardson, A History of the Edmonton Poor Law Union, 1837–1854, Edmonton Hundred Historical Society, Occasional Papers, New Series, no. 12, n.d. (1968) and E. E. Butcher, Bristol Corporation of the Poor, 1696–1898, Bristol branch of the Historical Association, Local History Pamphlets, no. 29 (1972) which, though concerned chiefly with the period before 1834, provides an important example of a relief authority which remained outside the Poor Law Commission’s control.Google Scholar
  6. General urban histories sometimes contain useful sections on Poor Law administration. Among them, R. A. Church, Economic and Social Change in a Midland Town: Victorian Nottingham, 1815–1900 (1966); R. Newton, Victorian Exeter, 1837–1914 (Leicester, 1968); A. T. Patterson, Radical Leicester: A History of Leicester, 1780–1850 (Leicester, 1954); A. T. Patterson, A History of Southampton, 1700–1914, vol. II, The Beginnings of Modern Southampton, 1836–1867 (Southampton, 1971); and A. Redford, The History of Local Government in Manchester, vol. II, Borough and City (1940).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© David Ashforth, Anne Digby, Francis Duke, M. W. Flinn, Derek Fraser, Norman McCord, Audrey Paterson, Michael E. Rose 1976

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