The Poor Law in Nineteenth-Century Scotland

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


The New Poor Law of 1834 did not apply to Scotland and it was another eleven years before the existing arrangements for poor relief in the northern part of the United Kingdom were reorganised. In 1845 an Act (8 & 9 Vic. cap. 83) ‘For the amendment and better administration of the laws relating to the relief of the poor in Scotland’ came into force, the title itself indicating that previous arrangements had been neither adequate nor properly administered. The new system introduced a central Board of Supervision to supervise arrangements made at local level by parochial boards, a machinery which remained unchanged until 1894 and set the two-tier pattern for future developments in helping the poor.


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Bibliographical Notes

  1. The chapter is mainly based upon Poor Law sources. Invaluable Parliamentary Papers include The Report to the Board of Supervision by Sir John M’Neill on the Western Highlands and Islands, P.P. XXVI (1851); Edwin Chadwick’s Report on the Sanitary Conditions of the Labouring Population of Scotland, P.P., XXVIII (1842); The Report of the Commissioners of Inquiry into the Conditions of the Crofters and Cottars in the Highlands and Islands, P.P., XXXII-XXXVI (1884), all of which should be read with caution. The Board of Supervision minutes (1845–94) vols 1–23, the annual reports (1847–94) Edinburgh City Parochial Board Minutes (1845–94) and relevant committee books have all provided information, but of these only the annual reports are printed and available in the National Library of Scotland. For a fuller survey of Edinburgh, see A. Paterson, ‘Poor Law Administration in the City Parish of Edinburgh, 1845–1894’, unpublished Ph.D. thesis, Edinburgh University (1974). The following three books by T. Ferguson have some value but the material has been taken from both other published sources and also the annual reports of the Board of Supervision: The Dawn of Scottish Welfare (Edinburgh, 1948); Scottish Social Welfare (Edinburgh, 1958); and Children in Care and After (1966).Google Scholar
  2. For background reading the following are very useful: R. Mitchison, A History of Scotland (1970), and T. C. Smout, A History of the Scottish People, 1560–1830 (1969). For regional information, J. P. Day, Public Administration in the Highlands and Islands (Edinburgh, 1918) contains much detailed material. The development of ideas concerning supervised relief can be found in C. L. Mowat, The Charity Organisation Society (Edinburgh, 1961). The following articles also provide very useful information: E. Chadwick, ‘Poor Law Administration in Scotland’, Journal of the Statistical Society (27 Apr. 1892); A. V. Douglas, ‘Historical Studies in the Development of Local Government Services in Edinburgh’, National Association of Local Government Officers (1936); and R. Mitchison, ‘The Making of the Old Scottish Poor Law’, Past and Present, LXIII (1974) PP. 58–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Nineteenth-century newspapers and magazines are very valuable sources, particularly Poor Law Magazine published monthly after 1859, and they are essential for an accurate account of the Scottish Poor Law in this period.Google Scholar

List of Poor Law Theses

  1. In recent years a considerable amount of research has been done on the history of the Poor Law. Much of this material is unpublished and remains in the university theses for which it was prepared. The list below is not exhaustive and the editor would be pleased to hear of any theses not included.Google Scholar

B.A. theses

  1. G. Cadman, ‘The Administration of the Poor Law Amendment Act in Hexham, 1836–40 and 1862–9’ (Newcastle, 1965).Google Scholar
  2. D. A. Farnie, ‘The Establishment of the New Poor Law in Salford, 1838–50’ (Manchester, 1951).Google Scholar
  3. S. M. Morgan, ‘Local Government and Poor Relief in Oldham, 1826–50’ (Manchester, 1959).Google Scholar
  4. J. Toft, ‘The New Poor Law in Leeds’ (Manchester, 1964).Google Scholar
  5. J. R. Wood, ‘The Transition from the Old to the New Poor Law in Manchester’ (Manchester, 1938).Google Scholar

M.A. theses

  1. C. F. Baker, ‘The Care and Education of Children in Union Workhouses of Somerset, 1834–70’ (London, 1961).Google Scholar
  2. R. G. Barker, ‘Houghton-le-Spring Poor Law Union 1834–1930’ (M.Litt., Newcastle, 1974).Google Scholar
  3. A. Becherand, ‘The Poor and English Poor Laws in Loughborough Union, 1837–60’ (M-ès-Lettres, Nancy, 1972).Google Scholar
  4. R. Boyson, ‘Poor Law Administration in North-East Lancashire, 1834–71’ (Manchester, 1960).Google Scholar
  5. E. A. Christmas, ‘The Administration of the Poor Law in some Gloucestershire Unions 1815–1847’ (M.Litt., Bristol, 1974).Google Scholar
  6. A. M. Davies, ‘Poverty and its Treatment in Cardiganshire, 1750–1850’ (Aberystwyth, 1969).Google Scholar
  7. F. Duke, ‘The Education of Pauper Children: Policy and Administration, 1834–55’ (Manchester, 1968).Google Scholar
  8. P. J. Dunkley, ‘The New Poor Law and County Durham’ (Durham, 1971).Google Scholar
  9. A. Froshaug, ‘Poor Law Administration in Selected London Parishes, 1750–1850’ (Nottingham, 1969).Google Scholar
  10. D.E. Gladstone, ‘The Administration and Reform of Poor Relief in Scotland with Special Reference to Stirlingshire, 1790–1850’ (Stirling, 1973).Google Scholar
  11. M. D. Handley, ‘Local Administration of the Poor Law in Great Boughton, Wirral and Chester Unions’ (Wales, 1968).Google Scholar
  12. N. D. Hopkins, ‘The Old and New Poor Law in E. Yorks c. 1760–1850’ (M. Phil., Leeds, 1968).Google Scholar
  13. C. F. Hughes, ‘The Development of the Poor Law in Caernarvon and Anglesey, 1815–1914’ (Wales, 1945).Google Scholar
  14. T. D. Jones, ‘Poor Law and Public Health Administration in Merthyr Tydfil, 1834–74’ (Cardiff, 1961).Google Scholar
  15. S. Kelly, ‘The Select Vestry of Liverpool and the Administration of the Poor Law, 1821–1871’ (Liverpool, 1972).Google Scholar
  16. P. Mawson, ‘Poor Law Administration in South Shields, 1830–1930’ (Newcastle, 1971).Google Scholar
  17. C. F. L. Pack, ‘Evolution of Methods of Poor Relief in the Winchester Area, 1720–1845’ (Southampton, 1967).Google Scholar
  18. W. Pike, ‘The Administration of the Poor Law in Rural Areas of Surrey, 1830–50’ (London, 1950).Google Scholar
  19. E. M. Ross, ‘Women and Poor Law Administration, 1857–1909’ (London, 1956).Google Scholar
  20. V. J. Russell, ‘Poor Law Administration, 1840–43, with Particular Reference to Cardiff Union’ (Wales, 1966).Google Scholar
  21. K. E. Skinner, ‘Poor Law Administration in Glamorgan, 1750–1850’ (Wales, 1956).Google Scholar
  22. J. E. Thomas, ‘Poor Law Administration in West Glamorgan’, 1834–1930 (Swansea, 1951).Google Scholar

Ph.D. Theses

  1. A. L. Brundage, ‘The Landed Interest and the New Poor Law in Northamptonshire, 1834–40’ (California, 1970).Google Scholar
  2. M. Caplan, ‘The Administration of the Poor Law in Southwell and Basford, 1836–71’ (Nottingham, 1967).Google Scholar
  3. A. Digby, ‘The Operation of the Poor Law in the Social and Economic life of Nineteenth Century Norfolk’ (East Anglia, 1972).Google Scholar
  4. N. C. Edsall, ‘The Poor Law and its Opponents, 1833–44’ (Harvard, 1965).Google Scholar
  5. E. Midwinter, ‘Social Administration in Lancashire, 1830–60’ (York, 1967).Google Scholar
  6. A. Paterson, ‘Poor Law Administration in the City Parish of Edinburgh, 1845–1894’ (Edinburgh, 1974).Google Scholar
  7. A. M. Ross, ‘The Care and Education of Pauper Children in England and Wales, 1834–96’ (London, 1956).Google Scholar
  8. V. J. Walsh, ‘The Administration of the Poor Law in Shropshire, 1820–55’ (Pennsylvania, 1970).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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