The Implementation of the Poor Law in the Basingstoke Union, North Hampshire, c.1870 - 1900

Hobbs, Karen (2019). The Implementation of the Poor Law in the Basingstoke Union, North Hampshire, c.1870 - 1900. Student dissertation for The Open University module A826 MA History part 2.

This dissertation was produced by a student studying the Open University module A826 MA History part 2. The research showcased here achieved a grade in either the Pass 1 band (equivalent to a 1st) or the Pass 2 band (equivalent to a 2.i).
Please note that this student dissertation is made available in the format that it was submitted for examination, thus the author has not been able to correct errors and/or departures from academic standards in areas such as referencing.
Copyright resides with the author and all rights are reserved.

Abstract

From 1834 the New Poor Law was a key provider of state-funded welfare for the very poor in nineteenth-century society, but the final three decades of the century have received less attention from historians than the period prior to 1870. This study examines the implementation of the Poor Law by the Board of Guardians in the rural union of Basingstoke, North Hampshire during those final decades and asks to what extent the guardians embraced, or resisted, changes in central government welfare policies. Recent scholarship has highlighted the importance and impact of the policy in retrenchment known as the ‘Crusade against outdoor relief’ as a radical change within the Poor Law during the late-century period, as well as the development of specialized care for certain categories of workhouse inmates. A lack of detailed study on the guardians who ran the poor law at the local level during this time has also been noted. Using a complete set of Minutes books for the board meetings of the guardians and reports from local newspapers, this study considers the role of the guardians before moving on to consider their responses firstly to the ‘crusade’ and then to policies on the introduction of specialized treatment in the workhouse. In addition, figures recorded in the Minutes books are analysed to gauge the impact of the Basingstoke guardians’ implementation of these late-century policies. The study concludes that the Basingstoke Board of Guardians generally sought to comply with national policy, but their response was qualified by a reluctance to commit to large-scale expenditure and difficulties arising from local circumstances. Yet, the Basingstoke Board made significant changes in the delivery of poor relief during the final decades of the nineteenth century. The evidence from this rural union contributes to a more nuanced understanding of the New Poor Law system during the final three decades of the nineteenth century.

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