Poverty - Nature of the problem

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  • Poor: Nature of the problem
    • Who were the poor?- Labouring poor divided into 3 categories
      • Those who will work = able-bodied poor
        • Undertook variety of jobs
          • Elite = skilled artisans
            • E.g cabinet makers, jewellers, machine-tool engineers
            • Manual workers with specific skills can sell
          • Craftsmen e.g bricklayers, masons - when demand was there, could command a reasonable wage
          • Largest group = labourers
            • Most manual work had to be done by hand. Was casual work, virtually non-existent in times of slump
      • Those who cannot work
        • Able boded poor with no work
          • e.g Bad weather bricklayers couldn't work,failed crop
          • No redundancy money or unemployment benefit
            • Corner shops gave credit but when possibilities exhausted, many turned to begging or forced to ask overseers of the poor for help
        • Many labourers got sick (living in damp conditions = pnemumonia)/injured from work (dangerous machinery =smashed limbs ,cracked skulls)
        • Elderly,no strength or health to work - no state or occupational pensions
      • Those who will not work
        • Beggars and vagrants
          • 40,000 - 100,000 destitute men and boys
    • Paupers
      • People who couldn't support themselves and their families at a level generally accepted by society, so were given relief
        • Relief = 'outdoor' (food ,clothing ,grants or money from the paupers parish ,enabling them to stay in own home and be supported there. Or 'indoor' = paupers given support only if they entered a parish poorhouse or workhouse.Depended on circumstances and attitudes of parish officials
    • Why were people poor?
      • Families drifted in and out of pauperism
        • Death of main wage earner (long term pauperism) or economic depression (short term)
        • Volatile nature of economy created poverty for many
          • Rapidly increasing population  with fast moving economy (from pre-mechanical to industrialised) created fluctuations in wages
            • Many skills no longer needed,new ones in demand. Poor harvests,  uncertainties about oversees supplies and mobility of population added to problem
    • Why interest in categorising the poor?
      • Many 19th cen social writers and reformers said poverty inevitable and necessary
        • Poverty necessary because through fear of indigence, people would work. Desire to force poor to stand n own feet and participate in healthy economy,drove legislation
          • Poor Laws didn't want to bring an end to poverty but preventing indigent from starving while forcing the poor to work rather than dependent on authorities
      • Concern with establishing link with poverty and morality
        • 'Deserving poor' =those poor through no fault of their own and worthy of help
        • 'Undeserving poor' = those whose poverty result of 'moral failure' e.g. drunkenness. Kept from starvation but other help directed towards punishment/improvement
      • Determine those deserving of help
        • Main fear = too much help given to undeserving, no reason to look for work. Deserving poor see attraction of adequate support and jobless living
          • Balance needed. Adequately support genuinely needy and deterring those unable/unwilling to work for using it as a permanent solution to their needs
    • What was it like to be poor?
      • Edward Smith conducted first national food survey (published 1863)
        • Calorific intake low, affect growth and physical output. Most labourers chronically tired, bulk of energy given to males(main wage earner)


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