The New Poor Law of 1834 attracted fierce opposition. This booklet, The Book of Murder! , taps into contemporary fears that those in power - the rich and the politicians - were conspiring to control and reduce the number of poor in Britain by any means possible. The 'murder book' was susposedly written by 'Marcus', titled 'On the Possibility of Limiting Populousness'; it effectively promotes the extermination of pauper children, by gas. Although this was entirely fictitious, a piece of propaganda written by anti-Poor Law campaigners, it draws from the work of Thomas Robert Malthus whose Essay on the Principle of Population (1798) influenced real poor relief legislation. Malthus proposed a variety of ways to 'check' the population in order to relieve distress. Many of these solutions were directed at the poor, such as the suggestion that the poor should refrain from having children.
Here, 'Marcus''s essay is reproduced together with an attack on the 'diabolical work' as well as the New Poor Law system more generally.
- Full title:
- The Book of Murder! a vade-mecum for the Commissioners and Guardians of the New Poor Law throughout Great Britain and Ireland, being an exact reprint of the infamous Essay on the possibility of limiting populousness, by Marcus, one of the three. With a refutation of the Malthusian doctrine.
- 1839, London
- Marcus [pseudonym]
- Held by:
- British Library
- Article by:
- John Sutherland
- The novel 1832 - 1880, Poverty and the working classes, London
Professor John Sutherland considers how Dickens’s A Christmas Carol engages with Victorian attitudes towards poverty, labour and the Christmas spirit.
- Article by:
- Ruth Richardson
- Poverty and the working classes, The novel 1832 - 1880, London
The hardships of the Victorian workhouse led Oliver Twist utter the famous phrase ‘Please Sir, I want some more’. Here Ruth Richardson explores Dickens’s own experiences of poverty and the social and political context in which he was writing.