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Poor Law Board in United Kingdom

Poor Law Board

In this issue about poor law board, the book “English Poor Law Policy” [1] reads as follows: We have seen that between 1834 and 1847 the Central Authority settled down to a certain empirical policy as to the administration of relief, which was embodied, as regards workhouse management throughout the whole country, in the General Consolidated Order of 1847; and (as regards outdoor relief in the different geographical regions into which England and Wales had been divided) in the Outdoor Relief Prohibitory Order of 1844, in that Order coupled with a Labour Test Order, and in the series of separate Orders to be presently consolidated in the Outdoor Relief Regulation Order of 1852. The policy thus adopted was, as we have seen, in various important respects not that of the “principles of 1834.” It is significant of the difficulty which was experienced in putting those principles into operation that there was, during the whole period 1847-71, no attempt to bring the general policy into conformity with that of the Report of 1834. We see no attempt at revision-indeed practically no criticism or desire for revision-of the great Orders of 1844, 1847 and 1852. What happened was a slow and almost unselfconscious development of a supplementary policy in respect to certain favoured classes of paupers, notably children and the sick-classes which had been practically ignored in the 1834 Report. This supplementary policy was avowedly based, not on the principle of a minimum relief of destitution with deterrent conditions, but on that of supplying whatever was necessary for adequate training or treatment, without objecting to the incidental result that this meant placing out in the competitive world the persons thus dealt with in a position of positive advantage as compared with the lowest class of independent labourers, who plainly could get no such training or treatment. It does not appear necessary, for this period, to separate the analysis of the statutes from that of the orders of the Central Authority. Though the Acts of Parliament are numerous-one or two for every session-they relate principally to the machinery of administration, and (except in the case of children) deal only slightly with policy. Parliament had, in fact, ceased to be interested in the Poor Law, and furnished for many years practically neither independent criticism nor initiative. “The Poor Law Board,” observed Sir George Cornewall Lewis in 1851, “has now become purely administrative and has no character or policy of its own.” It got from Parliament just what additional powers it chose to ask for. We may therefore include in one analysis both the statutes and the orders relating to relief policy.


Notes and References

  1. Sidney Webb and Beatrice Webb, “English Poor Law Policy” (1913), Longmans, Green and Co., London, New York, Bombay and Calcuta.

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  • Article Name: Poor Law Board
  • Author: Bernard Schwartz
  • Description: In this issue about poor law board, the book English Poor Law Policy [1] reads as follows: We have seen that between 1834 [...]

This entry was last updated: January 23, 2017


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