Caring or controlling? The East End of London in the 1880s and 1890s

O'Day, Rosemary (2004). Caring or controlling? The East End of London in the 1880s and 1890s. In: Emsley, Clive; Johnson, Eric and Spierenburg, Pieter eds. Social control in Europe: Volume 2, 1800-2000. Columbus, Ohio, USA: Ohio State University Press, pp. 149–166.



An essay which questions the orthodox position that late nineteenth-century philanthropy was motivated by the desire of the middle classes to control the poor. It suggests that 'social control' is too crude a concept with which to work and that it is unwise to reduce everything to power relations. It suggests that philanthropists were inspired by purer motives and that for some their work grew naturally out of the parochial structure of the Church of England. Others found in it an outlet for their personal talents of caring and managing. The essay is based on a detailed investigation of the work of Samuel Barnett, Octavia Hill, Osborne Jay, Charles Booth, Kate Courtney and Beatrice Potter (later Webb) and others. It uses a case study of Katharine Buildings, Cartwright Street to explore the concept of social control in some detail and to extend our knowledge of the motivations of these people in seeking to shape the lives of the poor as well as of the implementation of their work.

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