Material lives of the poor and their strategic use of the workhouse during the final decades of the English old poor law

2015-06-22T11:45:00Z (GMT) by Joseph Harley
This article is the first to use a combination of three different types of inventories from Dorset to examine the material lives of paupers inside and outside Beaminster workhouse. It argues that life was materially better for paupers on outdoor relief, compared with workhouse inmates and with paupers in the moments before they entered the workhouse. The article also examines how the poor used admission into the workhouse as part of their economy of makeshifts. The evidence demonstrates that the able-bodied poor used the workhouse as a short-term survival strategy, whereas more vulnerable inmates struggled to use this tactic. This article therefore furthers our understanding of the nature of poor relief and adds further weight to recent historical work that has emphasised pauper agency.

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