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Title: Marginality and misfortune : poverty and social welfare in Lancashire, c.1630-1760
Author: Healey, Jonathan
Awarding Body: Oxford University
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2008
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Exploiting underused sources, notably petitions and censuses, the present thesis offers the most detailed study yet of 'deserving' poverty in the period, aiming to re-emphasize economic and social structural issues in the study of poverty and poor relief. In particular, it challenges recent emphases on the concept of life-cycle poverty, and argues for a more nuanced picture of the factors behind need. 'Life-cycle' poverty is thus refined so as to distinguish between the (very different) problems of youth, old age, and family breakdown. Meanwhile, quantitative evidence is used to show that sickness, old age, and the failure of the nuclear family were all independent and equally powerful causes of hardship. It is argued that 'deserving' poverty essentially came about as a result of the interaction of two factors: marginality and misfortune. The former, which was a product of the social and economic environment, dictated which individuals and households were at risk of destitution. Thus factors such as the degree of access to productive resources, and the density of kin and neighbourly support networks were critical in determining the level of marginality at anyone time. At the same time, actual destitution, requiring relief from the Poor Law, normally came about as a direct result of some form of personal contingency, or misfortune. The study offers a model of the main forms of misfortune, covering old age, family failure, sickness, wider economic problems, and environmental risks. Of these, the first three are found to be the most commonly experienced, though the marginal population also suffered from intense crises in which economic factors (such as trade depression or harvest failure) caused extreme hardship. The thesis finishes with a study of two such crises (1674-5 and 1727-30), arguing that in the former case official poor relief was crucial in preventing widespread starvation.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available