Sickness, medical welfare and the English poor, 1750-1834

Description
At the core of this book are three central contentions: That medical welfare became the totemic function of the Old Poor Law in its last few decades; that the poor themselves were able to negotiate this medical welfare rather than simply being subject to it; and that being doctored and institutionalised became part of the norm for the sick poor by the 1820s, in a way that had not been the case in the 1750s. Exploring the lives and medical experiences of the poor largely in their own words, Sickness, medical welfare and the English poor offers a comprehensive reinterpretation of the so-called crisis of the Old Poor Law from the later eighteenth century. The sick poor became an insistent presence in the lives of officials and parishes and the (largely positive) way that communities responded to their dire needs must cause us to rethink the role and character of the poor law.
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Endorsements

This book explores the welfare experiences of the sick poor between the 1750s and through the so-called crisis of the Old Poor Law ending in the 1830s. It brings together a large dataset of accounts, vestry minutes, bills, contracts and letters by or about the poor to provide a comprehensive and colourful overview of the nature, scale and negotiation of medical welfare. At its core stand the words and lives of the poor themselves, reconstructed in painstaking detail to show that medical welfare became a totemic issue for parochial authorities by the 1830s. The book suggests that the Old Poor Law confronted a rising tide of sickness by the early nineteenth century. While there are spectacular instances of parsimony and neglect in response to such rising need, in most places and at most times, parish officers seem to have felt a moral obligation to the sick. Indeed, we might by and large construct their responses as considerate and generous. To some extent this reflected Christian paternalism, but we also see other factors at play. These include a growing sense that illness, even illness amongst the poor, was and should be remediable and a shared territory of negotiation between paupers, advocates and officials. The result was a canvas of medical welfare with extraordinary colour and depth. By the 1820s, more of the ill-health of ordinary people was captured by the poor law and being doctored or sojourning in an institution became part of pauper and parochial expectation. These trends are brought to vivid life in the words of the poor and their advocates, such that the book genuinely offers a re-interpretation of the Old Poor Law in it slater phases form the bottom up.

Reviews

This book explores the welfare experiences of the sick poor between the 1750s and through the so-called crisis of the Old Poor Law ending in the 1830s. It brings together a large dataset of accounts, vestry minutes, bills, contracts and letters by or about the poor to provide a comprehensive and colourful overview of the nature, scale and negotiation of medical welfare. At its core stand the words and lives of the poor themselves, reconstructed in painstaking detail to show that medical welfare became a totemic issue for parochial authorities by the 1830s. The book suggests that the Old Poor Law confronted a rising tide of sickness by the early nineteenth century. While there are spectacular instances of parsimony and neglect in response to such rising need, in most places and at most times, parish officers seem to have felt a moral obligation to the sick. Indeed, we might by and large construct their responses as considerate and generous. To some extent this reflected Christian paternalism, but we also see other factors at play. These include a growing sense that illness, even illness amongst the poor, was and should be remediable and a shared territory of negotiation between paupers, advocates and officials. The result was a canvas of medical welfare with extraordinary colour and depth. By the 1820s, more of the ill-health of ordinary people was captured by the poor law and being doctored or sojourning in an institution became part of pauper and parochial expectation. These trends are brought to vivid life in the words of the poor and their advocates, such that the book genuinely offers a re-interpretation of the Old Poor Law in it slater phases form the bottom up.

Author Biography

Steven King is Lecturer in History at Oxford Brookes University; ; ;

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Bibliographic Information
  • Pub date: May 2018
  • 9781526129000 / 1526129000
  • United Kingdom
  • Primary Price: 70 GBP
  • Manchester University Press
  • Readership: General/trade; College/higher education; Professional and scholarly
  • Publish State: Published
  • Dimensions: 216 X 138 mm
  • Series: Social Histories of Medicine
  • Reference Code: 10253