In Their Own Write: Contesting the New Poor Law, 1834-1900
Published by: McGill-Queen's University Press
Imprint: McGill-Queen's University Press
Sales Date: 2022-12-15
Published: December 2022
472 Pages, 152.00 x 229.00 x 1.60 in, 16 photos, 4 maps
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Until now it has been impossible to know how the poor themselves felt about the New Poor Law and its measures, how they negotiated its terms, and how their interactions with the local and national state shifted and changed across the nineteenth century. In Their Own Write exposes this hidden history. Based on an unparalleled collection of first-hand testimony – pauper letters and witness statements interwoven with letters to newspapers and correspondence from poor law officials and advocates – the book reveals lives marked by hardship, deprivation, bureaucratic intransigence, parsimonious officialdom, and sometimes institutional cruelty, while also challenging the dominant view that the poor were powerless and lacked agency in these interactions. The testimonies collected in these pages clearly demonstrate that both the poor and their advocates were adept at navigating the new bureaucracy, holding local and national officials to account, and influencing the outcomes of relief negotiations for themselves and their communities.
Fascinating and compelling, the stories presented in In Their Own Write amount to nothing less than a new history of welfare from below.