Moral Paupers: The Poor Men of St. Martin's, 1815-1819

Authors

  • Lynn MacKay

Abstract

Not only did male inmates of the St. Martin in the Fields Workhouse in London manipulate the offered assistance to meet their needs, but in doing so actually demonstrated the very virtues the workhouse was intended to instil. The logic of the behaviour of these poor men becomes readily apparent from a close analysis of workhouse admission and discharge records between 1815 and 1819 and of parish officials’ interviews with applicants. As an inculcator of moral virtue, the workhouse was redundant and, hence, unnecessary. This evidence begins to call into question one of the basic premises of nineteenth-century poor law reform: the need for moral regeneration.

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Published

01.05.2001

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Section

Articles