1834 poor law amendment act essay

Free Essay: The Poor Law Amendment Act and Tackling Poverty The Poor Law of poor; relief was local and community controlled.1 The Poor Law Act.
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The nature of poor relief changed significantly after Spending increased sharply, as did the share of paupers who were prime-aged males. The changing nature of the Poor Law was caused in part by an increase in the extent of poverty among agricultural laborers.

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However, the increase in spending overestimates, perhaps significantly, the increase in poverty, because during this period politically-dominant farmers took advantage of the Poor Law to shift some of their labor costs onto other taxpayers. In the second half of the eighteenth century, a significant share of rural households in southern England suffered non-trivial declines in real income. Farmers responded to rising wheat prices by increasing their specialization in grain production as opposed to livestock.

Because the demand for labor is far more seasonal in grain production than in pastoral farming, the concentration in grain caused an increase in seasonal unemployment among farm laborers. The enclosure movement, and the plowing over of commons and waste land, reduced the access of rural households to land for growing food and grazing animals. Finally, employment opportunities in cottage industry declined, which reduced the ability of women and children to contribute to household income.

The increase in seasonal unemployment, the decline of cottage industry, and the loss of common rights caused severe hardships for many rural southern households, especially during the winter months. The situation was different in the north and midlands, areas dominated by pastoral agriculture, where the demand for labor was relatively constant over the year.


Moreover, the beginnings of industrialization in the northwest, and in particular the rise of textile factories, led to increased employment opportunities for women and children. Largely in response to the decline in household income in the rural south, Parliament in sanctioned the granting of outdoor relief to able-bodied males. Relief expenditures were financed by a tax levied on all parishioners whose property value exceeded some minimum level. Poor relief was administered by the parish vestry, elected by the taxpayers. Large farmers used their political power to tailor the local administration of poor relief so as to lower their labor costs.

Farmers needed to pay their workers enough over the year to keep them from taking jobs elsewhere, either on other farms or in urban areas. They could do this by offering workers annual labor contracts. With both of these methods, farmers bore the entire cost required to keep their workers from leaving the farm. The Poor Law offered farmers another option.

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They could hire workers by the day, and during slack seasons have unneeded workers collect poor relief. Because labor-hiring farmers paid only part of the cost of poor relief, this option enabled them to shift some of their labor costs onto other taxpayers. Shortly after the new Poor Law was introduced, a number of scandals hit the headlines. The most famous was Andover Workhouse, where it was reported that half-starved inmates were found eating the rotting flesh from bones. In response to these scandals the government introduced stricter rules for those who ran the workhouses and they also set up a system of regular inspections.

The making of the New Poor Law: the politics of inquiry, enactment and implementation, 1832-39

However, inmates were still at the mercy of unscrupulous masters and matrons who treated the poor with contempt and abused the rules. Although most people did not have to go to the workhouse, it was always threatening if a worker became unemployed, sick or old. Increasingly, workhouses contained only orphans, the old, the sick and the insane.

Not surprisingly the new Poor Law was very unpopular. It seemed to punish people who were poor through no fault of their own. The poster in this lesson is an excellent piece of evidence showing opposition to the new Poor Law and public conceptions of life inside the workhouses. One way of encouraging pupils to analyse this rich source is by helping them to see that the poster is really made up of smaller pictures.

By dealing with one small picture at a time, commenting on and analysing the poster can become more manageable.

To extend their work, pupils can create their own new Poor Law poster, either for or against the law. Or they can be asked to write to the government complaining about the harshness of the new Poor Law.

George Boyer, Cornell University

They could also work in groups to create an alternative plan to deal with the problem of the rising cost of looking after the poor. The lesson can also be used as a starting point for investigating the new Poor Law in more depth and discussing attitudes to the poor in 19th century Britain. The Workhouse The Workhouse often conjures up the grim world of Oliver Twist, but its story is a fascinating mix of social history, politics, economics and architecture.

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View lesson as PDF View full image. Lesson at a glance. Secondly there were a group whom were the able-bodied paupers and it was thought that these people "could work but wouldn't -the undeserving poor ". They were severely beaten until they realized they were in the wrong. Relief was given in many different ways, and not all parishes had a poorhouse. It soon became obvious that some parishes were more sympathetic towards the poor in certain parishes, and so this caused many paupers to move from the parishes to ones in which were more generous.

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  3. Mill on Poverty, Population and Poor Relief!

To prevent this from happening again parliament passed the ' Settlement Act':. This said that a person had to have a 'settlement' in order to obtain relief from a parish.