Parsimony and pauperism : poor relief in England, Scotland and Wales in the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries

Harris, Bernard (2019) Parsimony and pauperism : poor relief in England, Scotland and Wales in the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. Journal of Scottish Historical Studies, 39 (1). pp. 40-74. ISSN 1748-538X

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    Abstract

    As the Royal Commission on the Poor Laws noted in 1909, the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 and the Poor Law (Scotland) Act of 1845 sprang from rather different motives. Whereas the first Act aimed to restrict the provision of poor relief, the second was designed to enhance it. However, despite these aims, it is generally accepted that Scotland’s Poor Law continued to relieve a smaller proportion of its population and to spend less money on them. This paper revisits the evidence on which these claims are based. Although the gap between the two Poor Laws was less than previously supposed, it was nevertheless substantial. The paper also explores the links between the size of Scottish parishes and welfare spending, and demonstrates that the main reasons for the persistence of the spending gap were related to different levels of investment in poorhouses and workhouses, and support for the elderly.