An irrevocable shift: detailing the dynamics of rural poverty in southern England, 1762–1834: a case study

Henry French
Published Online:
21 Oct 2014
Volume/Issue No:
Volume 68 Issue 3

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Nearly every conceivable aspect of the old poor law in England appears to have been studied. Yet some fundamental questions about parish‐level provisioning remain hard to answer. These include the amount that people received from the parish, from all sources, each week; how the balance between types of payments shifted over the period, and (correspondingly) within the individual life‐course; the range of services or supplements that such individuals received, from the parish, over the course of their lives; and how this spectrum of relief adjusted to the massive macro‐level changes that we know occurred in the poor relief system between the 1760s and 1834. This study attempts to answer these questions in new depth, by employing a dataset that encompasses all payments to named individuals within the Essex parish of Terling between 1762 and 1834, totalling 143,801 payments to 1,508 recipients. Analysis of this dataset provides new insights into the size, scope, changes, and significance of poor relief in labouring families' lives in southern England in this period.

© Economic History Society 2014

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