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Title: Early modern English almshouses in the mixed economy of welfare c. 1550-1725
Author: Nicholls, Angela
ISNI:       0000 0004 5356 0255
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2014
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Almshouses providing accommodation for poor people are a common feature of the towns and villages of England, but in the historical literature are rarely considered to have made a genuine contribution to the poor and needy. This study examines the extent and nature of almshouse provision in early modern England, and places this within the context of overall approaches to the poor in the period. The archival research focuses on the contrasting counties of Durham, Warwickshire and Kent between about 1550 and 1725. Information on all the almshouse foundations in those areas is collated and summarised in an appendix, enabling both quantitative and qualitative evaluations to be made. A detailed analysis of the policy background to housing the poor provides the context for the study, and reveals that almshouses were initially seen as part of a national as well as local solution to the problem of poverty. Many of the diverse people involved in founding and running almshouses responded to this agenda, motivated by political responsibility and particular group identities, rather than just the desire for personal memorialisation. A case study of a single almshouse exemplifies the way this parish used the almshouse alongside other resources to meet the needs of the poor. Overall, there was a surprising variation in the socio-economic status of almshouse occupants and their experience of almshouse life. In many almshouses, occupants’ standard of living was similar to that of other poor people, including parish paupers. The guaranteed nature of the benefits and security of the accommodation were, however, distinct advantages, and most almspeople were able to enjoy considerable independence and autonomy, with women possibly benefiting most. Over the period, however, statutory poor relief and the introduction of workhouses enabled almshouses to develop as more exclusive institutions, which were less embedded in local welfare systems.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: DA Great Britain