The Poor Laws of 1834 centralised the existing workhouse system to cut the costs of poor relief and discourage perceived laziness. They resulted in the infamous workhouses of the early Victorian period: bleak places of forced labour and starvation rations. The misery caused by the Poor Laws was a topic frequently addressed by mid-century novelists, writers and campaigners such as Charles Dickens (1812–1870).
One of the most enduring writers on the Poor Laws was the prolific legal author John Frederick Archbold (1785–1870). His treatises on parish law were important, practical legal reference works. The sections involving the Poor Laws and their amendments came out in stand-alone editions, such as this one from 1842, The New Poor Law Amendment Act, and the recent rules and orders of the Poor Law Commissioners. With a practical introduction, notes and forms. His Poor Law books were in particular demand, and still regarded as authoritative up to thirty years after his death.
- Article by:
- The Gentle Author
- Reading and print culture, Poverty and the working classes
The Gentle Author explores William Marshall Craig’s Cries of London prints, which portray the realities of life for street traders in the early 19th century.
- Article by:
- Ruth Richardson
- Poverty and the working classes, The novel 1832 - 1880
The hardships of the Victorian workhouse led to Oliver Twist uttering the famous phrase ‘Please Sir, I want some more’. Dr Ruth Richardson explores Dickens’s reaction to the New Poor Law, which established the workhouse system, and his own experiences of poverty and hardship.