Poverty, Poor Relief and Policy in Britain and Beyond c. 1600-1900

Date / time: 11 April - 12 April, All day

Poverty, Poor Relief and Policy in Britain and Beyond c. 1600-1900


Call for papers deadline: 7th February 2022

Canterbury Christ Church University (in-person and online), 11 and 12 April 2022.
Supported by the Royal Historical Society and the Social History Society.

Co-organised by
Dr Samantha A. Shave, Senior Lecturer in Social Policy, University of Lincoln
Dr David Hitchcock, Senior Lecturer in Early Modern History, Canterbury Christ Church University

Due to a number of impoverishing calamities in the first decades of the 21st century, including the financial crisis, accelerated climate breakdown, and the COVID-19 pandemic, ideas about how to eliminate poverty, provide support and transform welfare policies, have become pressing once again. At the same time, there has been a resurgence in interest in understanding poverty and poor relief during the first three centuries of organised social welfare in Britain. Literature has examined the development of ideas about poverty and poor relief, and how the policies and practices these ideas inspired were developed, adopted, revised, and abandoned. We have developed more nuanced understandings of the roles of individuals working within the spheres of poverty and poor relief, including key thinkers, MPs, local administrators and the poor themselves, and wider understandings of the ‘mixed economy of welfare’ of the past. In addition, through intense research of ‘narratives of the poor’, and the excavation of sources including pauper letters, we have uncovered how those in poverty understood their own situations, and had a thorough knowledge of entitlements and policies which enabled them to secure help for themselves as well as friends, family members and neighbours. The aim of this two-day conference is to bring together academics from disciplines across the humanities and social sciences in order to generate new discussions and directions in understanding poverty and poor relief. We hope for a diverse range of approaches and perspectives to consider.

Potential topics of research may include, but are not limited to these themes:

  • Creation, adaption, implementation, development, or dissolution of poor relief policies
  • Impacts of poor relief policies on people, poverty, or on welfare systems
  • Case studies of the operation of poor relief, or of how individuals navigated systems and policies
  • Connections between poverty and British colonialism
  • Poor relief policy networks and transfers, between people/across places
  • Understandings, perspectives and uses of poor relief policies
  • Cultural representations of poverty, poor relief, or punishment of the undeserving poor
  • Arguments and ideas for or against different poor relief policies
  • Bureaucracy of policy and poor relief, including absences or silences in bureaucratic records
  • Dynamics between policies and the built environment or landscape
  • Methods of resistance to poor relief policies or their applications/interpretations
  • Work, lives and relationships of those involved in policymaking, implementation or dissolution
  • The significance of past poor relief policies to welfare in 20th and 21st centuries

All Paper Proposals: Please email Sam (sshave@lincoln.ac.uk) or Dave (david.hitchcock@canterbury.ac.uk) with titles and abstracts of up to 300 words by the end of Monday 7 February 2022.

This will be a hybrid event, so please indicate whether you would like to attend in person or online. We understand the need for flexibility near the date of the conference due to the ongoing pandemic.

ECR Bursaries & ECR Panel: Applications from precarious and early career researchers are specifically invited and several bursaries (based on location and need) are available thanks to the generous support of the Royal Historical Society and the Social History Society. ECR researchers are invited to pre-circulate a short paper of up to 3000 words and speak about their work in progress as a part of an ECR Panel at this event.