Implementing and administering the New Poor Law in the industrial north: a case study of Preston union in regional context, 1837-1861

Darwen, L., 2015. Implementing and administering the New Poor Law in the industrial north: a case study of Preston union in regional context, 1837-1861. PhD, Nottingham Trent University.

Lewis.Darwen-2016.pdf - Published version

Download (4MB) | Preview


This thesis examines Poor Law administration in the urban industrial union of Preston, Lancashire, from the introduction of the Poor Law Amendment Act in the region in 1837 to the eve of the Lancashire Cotton Famine in 1861. For many years historiography has emphasised that, despite the attempt to engender a greater degree of uniformity through unionisation and the creation of a London based central authority, diversity was a defining characteristic of relief administration at local level under the New Poor Law just as it had been under the Old. Local studies are therefore essential to understanding how the Poor Law operated in practice, and this thesis answers repeated calls for more of them. Lancashire has received little empirical attention from welfare historians for the period after 1837, particularly at the level of individual unions, and the study therefore primarily seeks to shed new light on how policy was formed and relief provided at local level in a region that was both the most industrialised in the country and located within the heartland of the anti-Poor Law movement. It is argued that policy and practice in Preston union, like any union, was shaped by a number of broad interconnected variables, the nature and relative importance of which were each determined by local circumstances. Isolated local studies, however, can only tell us so much. Thus, the thesis seeks to draw wider and more significant conclusions by setting Preston union within a broader regional and sub-regional framework. The approach reflects recent historiography which has argued that, in spite of local differences, Poor Law administration varied considerably by region, with a particularly marked distinction having been drawn between an inclusive, perhaps generous, south and east and a less inclusive, perhaps harsh, north and west. Most research in this area has focussed on the Old Poor Law, and this study questions whether, and the extent to which, such distinctions endured into the New. The thesis challenges the notion that spatial patterns of relief at regional level indicate relative levels of generosity. It argues, instead, that socio-economic conditions were chiefly responsible for observable differences at the regional and sub-regional levels, with the durability of the makeshift economy important in the case of the former. Further, it argues that variation at all levels occurred within rather narrow parameters, and that the Poor Law fundamentally served much the same purpose across the country.

Item Type: Thesis
Creators: Darwen, L.
Date: August 2015
Rights: This work is the intellectual property of the author. You may copy up to 5% of this work for private study, or personal, non-commercial research. Any re-use of the information contained within this document should be fully referenced, quoting the author, title, university, degree level and pagination. Queries or requests for any other use, or if a more substantial copy is required, should be directed to the owner of the Intellectual Property Rights.
Divisions: Schools > School of Arts and Humanities
Record created by: Linda Sullivan
Date Added: 10 Aug 2016 10:43
Last Modified: 10 Aug 2016 10:43

Actions (login required)

Edit View Edit View


Views per month over past year


Downloads per month over past year