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Title: Poverty, charity and memory in post-war Manchester : the work and operation of the Wood Street Mission, 1945-1990
Author: Crosher, Mark
ISNI:       0000 0004 5352 5564
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2014
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This thesis investigates the work and operation of the Manchester-based poverty relief charity, the Wood Street Mission (WSM), between 1945 and 1990. While the history of post-war welfare has underlined the survival and growth of the voluntary sector at a national level, the development of middle-class philanthropy at a local and community platform remains neglected. By focusing on the WSM, this thesis explores the way in which a small charitable organization adapted to the post-war welfare state, and responded to important economic and social problems. It argues that local middle-class philanthropy in post-war Britain was a resilient and dynamic force within the mixed economy of welfare. In particular, it demonstrates that the WSM performed a diverse range of work in the fields of health, leisure, education and advice as a means to alleviate urban tension deriving from inflation, unemployment, housing, and juvenile delinquency. Moreover, the study establishes that the WSM combined traditional poverty relief activities with pioneering youth projects in responding to local community needs. Looking beyond traditional explanations of philanthropy as driven by either ‘social control’ or ‘kindness’, this research adopts a contemporary approach for the framing of charitable action in the post-war period, which accounts for central and local government policies, voluntary sector associations, and commercial forces. This thesis also develops historical understanding of the post-war experience of welfare by exploring the oral testimonies of former employees of the WSM, and people that received assistance, within the framework of a theory of memory composure. By drawing on memory theory, it offers a fresh perspective on the role of both altruism and stigma in post-war society by investigating how charity staff and ‘clients’ have interpreted and reconstructed their pasts. Building on research by Alessandro Portelli, Alistair Thomson and Penny Summerfield, it provides an important theoretical development through applying memory composure theory to the context of poverty and charity. The thesis will argue that charity staff and ‘clients’ accounts of the past were not only structured by different understandings of poverty, but also shaped by expressions of empathy. It demonstrates long-standing and contemporary definitions of poverty, as well as class, political and religious interpretations of the term, structured their oral recollections of the WSM. Moreover, it demonstrates that wide ranging concepts of empathy were conveyed in the narration of accounts concerning the WSM’s post-war activities, including an imagining of oneself in another’s situation and being emotionally affected by someone else’s experiences. Using the WSM as a site of study, this thesis breaks new ground in the historiography of post-war welfare in Britain by exploring the relationship of poverty, charity and memory.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Poverty ; Charity ; Memory