Poverty and charity in England, c. 1680-1800: a study of utility, speculation and imagined prospects

Lead Research Organisation: University of Hertfordshire
Department Name: Social Sciences Arts and Humanities RI


The project re-examines debate about poverty and its management during the long eighteenth century. Investigating various proposals (e.g. for vast inland colonies, cottage building, cheap food or charity schools) and attempts to mobilize supporters (e.g. through creative accounting, performance and display, or idealized scenes), the research will explore the rhetoric of utility, the uses of material culture, and the role of the imagination in social policy. These contexts shaped the interventions of would-be reformers and commentators, and prepared the ground on which the poor accessed resources and engaged the values that surrounded them.


10 25 50
Description A period of research leave funded by this grant allowed completed of a monograph, Charity and Poverty in England, c.1680-1820: wild and visionary schemes. This book explores responses to poverty in eighteenth-century England, with an eye to some of the odder manifestations of charity and poor relief. Whether discussing proposals for vast inland colonies or cosy firesides, men and women demonstrated that imagination, excitement and experiment were as important as systematic argument in making ear
Exploitation Route This research opens a historical perspective on poverty, welfare and charitable assistance. It contributes to contemporary discussion of the causes of poverty, definitions of the poor and the balance between state/voluntary assistance by analysing how these questions were debated in the past and the historical legacy of those decisions. In dealing with the relationship between practical and visionary ideas, it challenges policy makers to think about the role of imagination and desire in their o
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy

Description Have discussed the present-day resonances of 18th-century poor relief, including at meetings of local history societies, community groups.
First Year Of Impact 2010
Description Presentation at Conference in Honour of Paul Slack: suffering and happiness in England 1550-1850 
Form Of Engagement Activity Scientific meeting (conference/symposium etc.)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation keynote/invited speaker
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Conference presentation

Invitation to contribute to a collection of essays on the history of suffering and happiness.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
Description Presentation at Llandrindod and Pales Quaker Meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Questions and discussion of (a) the history of Quakers and poor relief; and (b) present-day legacies of early modern social policy.

Ongoing discussions with members of the Meeting.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010
Description Presentation to the North London Historians Group 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Discussion.

Talks at other history group meetings.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011