“Reconciled gradually to the system of indoor relief”: the poor law in Wales during the “crusade against out-relief”, c. 1870 - c. 1890

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    Abstract

    Evidence is growing that Wales was a distinctive ‘welfare region’ under the New Poor Law. Higher rates of out-relief, tense relations with London and a deep dislike of the workhouse system marked the Principality out as different. This article considers Welsh distinctiveness in the context of the ‘crusade against out-relief’. Launched in the early 1870s, the crusade saw out-relief numbers tumble nationally. Little is known about the crusade in Wales but it is often assumed that it was a non-event. It is argued here that this is entirely incorrect. Official statistics reveal that tens of thousands of outdoor paupers in Wales had their relief stopped. Crusaders were successful partly due to the misleading way the Poor Law inspectorate used official figures to portray Wales as a district on the brink of crisis. The turning of outdoor paupers into ‘folk devils’ by sections of the Welsh press was also pivotal. Welsh distinctiveness was not eradicated during the crusade, but it was eroded.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)121-144
    JournalFamily & Community History
    Volume20
    Issue number2
    Early online date26 Sep 2017
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2017

    Keywords

    • new poor law
    • welfare region
    • crusade against out-relief
    • welfare retrenchment
    • Wales
    • statistics

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