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The New Poor Laws in Scotland, England and Wales: Comparative Perspectives

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This article focuses on a seemingly obvious but largely overlooked question in the historiography of British welfare: what are the merits of, and the obstacles to, a serious comparative study of the poor laws in the constituent countries of mainland Britain? It first considers the wider context for such a question in relation to European welfare history, then discusses the broad historiographical trends for each country in relation to two key areas of the welfare debate: how far the intentions of the central Poor Law authorities were reflected in local practice, and the ability of paupers themselves to shape or influence their own experience of relief at the local level. It makes some key observations about the ways in which 'national narratives' of welfare have developed for Scotland, England and Wales in the past, and how these have shaped our view of the relationship between them, and finally suggests avenues 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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