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Thinking and Rethinking the New Poor Law

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At the core of this article is the observation that, notwithstanding recent advances, we understand much less about the New Poor Law than the Old. An increasingly strong grasp of who was in workhouses is balanced by an historiography on the agency of workhouse inmates which is best described as 'thin'. The medical functions of the workhouse have, both for 'normal' times and occasions of scandal, been increasingly well researched. By contrast the religious and educational functions of workhouses remain relatively under-researched. About those on outdoor relief and those who administered their relief we know almost nothing. This article reviews the highlights of current literature and attempts to establish an agenda, in part met by contributions to this special issue, for future research.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2017

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  • Local Population Studies was first published in 1968, and since then it has focused on presenting cutting-edge research in local, population and social history. It is published twice a year online and in print by the Local Population Studies Society, with the support of the University of Oxford. For information about how to become a member of the LPSS, and for freely available back issues from 1968 to 2010, please visit
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