(Oxford Brookes University)
“Putting the ‘Work’ in ‘Workhouse’: The causes and effects of periodic confinement on children under the English Old Poor Law”
This paper is a comparative study of the experience of children in the Old Poor Law workhouse in England, looking at two very different institutions: the large, well-resourced and well-organised workhouse at St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Westminster which housed upwards of 700 paupers from the 1770s onwards, and the slightly more ramshackle, but nonetheless well-established workhouse in Portsmouth which housed around 200 paupers. The work is based on data taken from the admissions and discharge registers of both institutions between 1770 and 1785.
Although , by now, we know quite a lot, in general terms, about the experience of the London workhouse poor, we know very little indeed about those in the provinces. The findings of the present paper bear out much of Alysa Levene’s pioneering work on children housed in St. Marylebone workhouse. In particular, they suggest that children were rarely admitted to the workhouse for reasons of sickness and infirmity, and that a large proportion of those children admitted (perhaps even the majority) could expect to be discharged into employment. However, it does suggest a slight difference of emphasis in this respect, with large numbers of children in Portsmouth being sent to short- or long-term service, whereas children in London were more likely to be bound as apprentices.
Please provide a short a biography including research interests (of up to 200 words), along with key publications
Peter Jones is Lecturer in the History of Medicine at Oxford Brookes University, and was awarded his PhD from the University of Southampton in 2003. Before joining Brookes, he spent three years as a Research Fellow on the Westminster Pauper Biographies Project.
He is currently working on a number of research strands relating to demotic history in the eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries, including pauper letters and other ‘narratives of the poor’, welfare and relief in kind (especially clothing and textiles), popular protest and popular consciousness, and the experience of the poor in the workhouse under the Old Poor Law.
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