The human ecology of need and relief on the Lincoln Heath, c.1790-1850

Bayly, M., 2022. The human ecology of need and relief on the Lincoln Heath, c.1790-1850. PhD, Nottingham Trent University.

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This thesis examines the extent of change and continuity in experiences of need and relief at the local scale within the transitional period between the Old and New Poor Laws. In doing so, it tests the impact of the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act against both the dynamic nature of welfare in the waning period of the Old Poor Law and the importance of localised socio-economic factors. Methodologically, the thesis moves away from common framings currently adopted by the literature. Instead, it grounds analysis in a human ecological methodology which aims to examine relationships and impacts between people and their local environment. Research is embedded within Lincolnshire, an understudied area in the context of English and Welsh welfare historiography, and focusses on ten proximate parishes on the Lincoln Heath, a distinct geological region of the county.

Change and continuity between poor laws was mixed. The main aims of the New Poor Law were generally administrative and restrictive in nature, aiming to restructure the management of the poor law and curtail outdoor relief for the able-bodied. This thesis argues that these goals were broadly met within the area of study. The administrative variation evident under the Old Poor Law was largely erased through unionisation and the formation of New Poor Law salaried staff. In addition, this thesis suggests a reduction in outdoor relief given to able-bodied males under the New Poor Law, with this cohort being a key target of the Poor Law Amendment Act itself and later special and general orders issued by the Poor Law Commission. The creation of union workhouses multiplied the potential for indoor relief to be a composite factor of relief outcomes under the New Poor Law, generally standardising the experience of the workhouse within the poor law union area in comparison to a mixed indoor relief expression evident under the Old Poor Law within the area of study.

However, dominant parish ratepayers staffed key administrative positions under both poor laws, leading to broad demographic persistence in some aspects of administration. Despite the growth of poor law staffing under the New Poor Law, salaried positions within poor law unions were filled by local choice, meaning such staff became part of a rearticulated forum of poor law management which exhibited elements of continuation. Additionally, periods of increased need and levels of poor law receipt remained temporally variable across the period of study, with the New Poor Law not negating the fact that these often relied on localised economic conditions. Similarly, there was a broad continuity in the demography of receipt under both poor laws, with cohorts such as women, children and the elderly being dominant. Outdoor relief remained the primary poor law relief outcome into the New Poor Law, seeing continuation with previous practice, particularly from the 1820s onwards as outdoor relief seemingly became the dominant relief outcome in the parish selection. Moreover, the poor law itself always sat in relation to other avenues of relief within a broader mixed economy of welfare, with individuals amalgamating differing strands of support within personal relief strategies. As such, the impact of the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act was nuanced, with conclusions on the extent of change and continuity often dependent on the framing of questions asked. What is clear, however, is that the poor law in its localised expression was embedded in an underlying socio-economic locale, impacting how it was conceived, managed and utilised.

Item Type: Thesis
Creators: Bayly, M.
Date: July 2022
Rights: The copyright in this work is held by 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 author.
Divisions: Schools > School of Arts and Humanities
Record created by: Linda Sullivan
Date Added: 19 Jul 2023 13:27
Last Modified: 19 Jul 2023 13:27

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