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Social Science Poverty & Homelessness

Society and Pauperism

English Ideas on Poor Relief, 1795-1834

by (author) J.R. Poynter

University of Toronto Press
Initial publish date
Apr 2019
Poverty & Homelessness, Georgian Era (1714-1837), Social Services & Welfare
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    Publish Date
    Apr 2019
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This is a study of the ideas and attitudes expressed in the extensive literature on poverty, pauperism and relief published in England between the 1790s and the 1830s. It describes, analyses and explains the recorded attitudes in that period to poverty as a social phenomenon.


The focus of the study is the Poor Law, the network of law and practice which in the network of law and practice which in the two hundred years since its inception had become entwined in the fabric of society and of the economic system. In the early nineteenth century the Poor Law become one of the chief public issues of the day, the object of vigorous attack and the centre of controversy in which new assumptions of social order challenged old. The debate ranged far and wide and became involved with most of the other disputed issues of the time. The present work shows how, in 1834, the system was subjected to drastic changes in accordance with the new creed on poverty and its relief which had emerged in debate and was to continue as social orthodoxy until well into the twentieth century.


The study is especially valuable in that, by an examination of contemporary writings, it leads to a proper understanding of the period, its preoccupations and concerns, such as can be gained only from the consideration of the thoughts and actions of those who belonged to it.

About the author

J.R. Poynter, Ernest Scott Professor of History in the University of Melbourne since 1966, was born at Coleraine, Victoria, and educated at Trinity Grammar School, Kew, Victoria. After graduating in History at Melbourne University he went to Magdalen College, Oxford, as a Rhodes Scholar. From 1953 to 1964 he was Dean of Trinity College in the University of Melbourne.

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