Clothing the New Poor Law workhouse in the nineteenth century

Jones, P., King, S. ORCID: 0000-0002-9152-9190 and Thompson, K., 2021. Clothing the New Poor Law workhouse in the nineteenth century. Rural History. ISSN 0956-7933

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The workhouse remains a totemic institution for social historians, yet we still know very little about the day-to-day experiences of the indoor poor. Nowhere is this clearer than in discussions about workhouse clothing, which remain overwhelmingly negative in the literature and consistent with the predominant view of the workhouse as a place of suffering and humiliation. Yet more often than not, this view is based on relatively shallow empirical foundations and tends to rely on anecdotal evidence or on the uncritical use of subjective sources such as photographs, newspaper editorials and other cultural products. This article takes a different approach by looking again at the whole range of meanings that workhouse clothing held for paupers and those who oversaw its allocation, and at the practical and symbolic usages to which it was put by them. On the basis of this evidence the authors argue that, contrary to the orthodox view, workhouse clothing was rarely intended to be degrading or stigmatising; that it would have held very different meanings for different classes of paupers; and that, far from being a source of unbridled misery, paupers often found it to be a source of great strategic and practical value.

Item Type: Journal article
Publication Title: Rural History
Creators: Jones, P., King, S. and Thompson, K.
Publisher: Cambridge University Press (CUP)
Date: 15 June 2021
ISSN: 0956-7933
Rights: © The Author(s), 2021.
Divisions: Schools > School of Arts and Humanities
Record created by: Linda Sullivan
Date Added: 06 Sep 2021 11:36
Last Modified: 06 Sep 2021 11:36

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