The 'Bury-al Board' : poverty, politics and poor relief in the Brixworth Union, Northamptonshire, c.1870-1900
thesisposted on 15.12.2014, 10:44 by Elizabeth T. Hurren
The crusade against outrelief, which was promoted by the Local Government Board in the late-Victorian era, is a neglected topic of nineteenth century poor law studies. This thesis examines the crusade against outrelief that was implemented in the Brixworth Union of Northamptonshire because this board of guardians was one of the strongest and most renowned supporters of central government's anti-outrelief policy between 1870 and 1896. For over twenty-five years guardians implemented a series of progressively harsh strategies to try to eradicate outrelief spending. Those anti-outrelief measures had a profound social cost with far-reaching political repercussions. From the start of the crusade campaign, working people organised to fight for the reintroduction of outrelief. When the poor law was democratised in the 1890s the working-classes succeeded in becoming guardians of the poor for the first time and they outvoted the anti-outrelief policy. The political contest over outrelief provides fresh insights into the complex nature of labour relations in the countryside and the impact of democratisation in the late-nineteenth century. It traces the role of the poor law in rural society and how policy was shaped by central and local factors. The study, therefore, examines the politics of poor relief, the forces that shaped poor law policies and the impact those policies had on rural society in the context of the crusade against outrelief and its overthrow. In the process it questions some of our assumptions about working class political and social welfare aspirations before the advent of Welfare State legislation in the early twentieth century.