The experience of poverty in the Cleobury Mortimer Union parishes, Shropshire, 1770-1870

Hodge, Robert J. ORCID: 0000-0002-5409-1724 (2020). The experience of poverty in the Cleobury Mortimer Union parishes, Shropshire, 1770-1870. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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This study explores several aspects of the lived experience of poverty, during the period 1770 1870 under both the old and new poor laws, in Cleobury Mortimer and the sixteen surrounding parishes in south-east Shropshire and adjacent Worcestershire, which eventually formed the Cleobury Mortimer Poor Law Union. It covers the major themes which influenced poverty by examining the experience of poverty at four defined life-stages of individual paupers: childhood, young adulthood, family life and old age. It addresses the following questions: to what extent were poor children encouraged by the regime of poor relief to escape poverty, or did it simply provide subsistence levels of support; how far were the harsh laws relating to settlement and bastardy applied; what was the plight of families in and out of the workhouse; and how did the poor fare in illness and at the end of their lives. It considers in detail how the poor laws were applied both before and after the introduction of the new poor law in 1834 and examines how far the operation of relief created ‘welfare states in miniature’, a term originally coined by Mark Blaug and elaborated by Keith Snell to describe the operation of the poor laws in rural parishes before 1834. The study illuminates the experience of poverty in the Cleobury Mortimer union parishes in the under-researched county of Shropshire and demonstrates how isolated rural communities looked after their poor: under the old poor law there are definite indications that the hardship was minimised by the parish authorities – and it could only have been intentionally so. It finds a strong sense of a willingness to treat the poor with respect under the old poor law, though it is clear that things changed once the new poor law came into effect. The research findings throw light on class relations in a set of rural communities before and after 1834 by highlighting differences and power relationships between the landed class and the farmers and professionals, whose attitude towards the poor was very different. The methodological approach allowed a number of case studies to be uncovered from source material, which proved to be a productive means of generating a greater insight into the experience of poverty and the impact of the poor laws.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of History and Cultures, Department of History
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D204 Modern History
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform


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