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Title: Poverty, unrest and the response in Surrey
Author: Hill, Judith
ISNI:       0000 0004 2723 2813
Awarding Body: University of Roehampton
Current Institution: University of Roehampton
Date of Award: 2006
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The organisation of this thesis is thematic, in order to disentangle the complexity and significance of the poor laws in a local area. It is a local study of poverty and the operation of the poor laws. The aim of this detailed survey is to consider the role of poor law administration in Surrey within the national context, and by examining the operation of the poor law at the parish level, to understand the experiences of real people, both ratepayer and the poor. The thesis also considers whether the old poor law was fundamentally defective or whether it can be viewed as a valid response to increasing poverty. It stresses, the relationship between the central and local authorities and the administration of poor relief in rural Surrey outside the Metropolitan area and the hundred of Brixton, Wallington and Kingston for the period 1815–1834 (see Map 1.0). It recognises that before 1834, variety rather than uniformity characterised the administration of poor relief in England and Wales. It also argues, that power and authority, within the English state was the product of negotiation between the centre and the localities. Chapter One deals with the historiography of the old poor law and chapter Two considers the decline of rural industry in Surrey, coupled with continuing economic problems in agriculture and falling demand for labour, which had a devastating effect in rural parishes. Chapter Three details the administrative system of poor relief during a period that saw costs of relief rise, while Chapter Four examines the operation of the relief system at parish level outside the workhouse. Chapter Five examines the provision of indoor relief in Surrey, and Chapter Six considers the position of the ratepayers and their ability and willingness to pay increased poor rates, at a time of agricultural depression combined with rising unemployment. Chapter Seven considers the position of the labourer, when endemic poverty meant that a labourer’s ability to provide for his family without asking the parish for assistance was more a matter of luck than personal industry. Seasonal unemployment exacerbated the situation, forcing farm workers on to the parish for assistance, especially in winter months. Chapter Eight considers the unrest of 1830–32, the so-called Swing Riots. Many studies of poor law only make fleeting reference to the riots. This study sees the disturbances as an integral part of the work and includes a detailed investigation into the riots within the social and cultural context. In Surrey, as in other parts of rural southern England, they took place against the background of the progressive pauperisation of labourers, when parishes were finding it more difficult to provide relief for the growing numbers of unemployed, able-bodied agricultural labourers. Labourers saw the riots as a rising against unemployment and the abuses of the poor law system that seemed unable to provide sufficient relief for their needs. The thesis ends by examining the reaction of the parishes immediately after the riots before the introduction of the 1834 poor law, when attempts were made at parish level to alleviate the situation and to stop further unrest.
Supervisor: Edwards, Peter Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Surrey ; poverty ; unrest ; Poor Laws