Pauperism and profit: Financial management, business practices and the new poor law in England in Wales

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis adopts a supply-­‐side approach to understanding poor law expenditure. It investigates the reasons for variations in relief spending by poor law unions, the local government organisations responsible for poor relief in England and Wales from -./0 to -2/3, and makes important new contributions to the historiography of the new poor law in three key ways: First, it emphasises the signi/icance of different types of places. As indoor relief grew, particularly in urban settings, the poor law was increasingly important in local economies as a buyer of goods and services. Second, it shows that these transactions were socially embedded, based as they were on relationships between administrators and suppliers. Third, it demonstrates that these social transactions could affect the local costs of buying goods, and thereby the relief policies and practices which shaped paupers’ experiences. Using geographical information systems techniques, it develops a spatial understanding of relief and suggests new ways of measuring the costs and types of poor law practices. It queries the conception of a north-­‐south divide in generosity of relief and suggests that paupers saw greater differences between rural and urban unions. Moreover, it argues that variations in relief practices need to be understood in the context of local 'inancial management. It analyses the ways in which unions contracted for provisions, and relates relief expenditure to local costs of goods. By investigating the supply of goods to unions across England and Wales it demonstrates the social signi3icance of the poor law for local economies, not just in terms of its impact on poverty, but also as a consumer of goods and a source of revenue for businesses.
Date of AwardNov 2014
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London

Cite this