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Title: Religion, the SPCK and the Westminster workhouses : 're-enchanting' the eighteenth-century workhouse
Author: Tye, Sally
ISNI:       0000 0004 7230 5532
Awarding Body: Oxford Brookes University
Current Institution: Oxford Brookes University
Date of Award: 2014
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This thesis examines the role and importance of religion and religious reform in the Westminster workhouses and how it developed throughout the eighteenth century. Tim Hitchcock argued in 1992 that the SPCK, an Anglican reforming society, was largely responsible for the parochial workhouse movement in the early eighteenth century, viewing these institutions as a tool through which to reform society by instilling piety into the poor. Consequently, he concluded that these workhouses were established with the principal intention of religiously reforming paupers. This has yet to be substantially followed up. Significantly, apart from this work, very little of which has been published, religion has largely been omitted from histories of the workhouse and welfare more generally. However, if we accept J.C.D Clark's call for a re-enchantment of the eighteenth century and his argument that society remained deeply religious, the workhouse as a product of this society should not be viewed without religion. A number of historians now accept that workhouses began as reforming institutions, yet they continue to conclude that these ideals were abandoned relatively quickly in favour of a greater degree of pragmatism when it came to relieving the poor. This thesis argues in support of Hitchcock's theory that religion and the ideals of the SPCK played a major role in the foundation and operation of the Westminster workhouses from the 1720s, but most significantly that it continued to do so throughout the eighteenth century at least up to Gilbert's Act of 1782. The SPCK may well have lost interest in the workhouse movement during the mideighteenth century, but crucially these workhouses did not abandon its reforming agenda. Religion and religious reform remained central to these eighteenth-century institutions, re-enchanting our interpretation of the workhouse.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available