From poor relief to marginalization: British workhouses on the threshold of two worlds, 1770-1860.

Postgraduate Thesis uoadl:2865466 160 Read counter

Κατεύθυνση Ευρωπαϊκή ιστορία
Library of the School of Philosophy
Deposit date:
Malanos Stamatios
Supervisors info:
Α. ΓΑΓΑΝΑΚΗΣ ΚΩΣΤΑΝΤΙΝΟΣ, Αναπληρωτής Καθηγητής Νεότερης Ευρωπαϊκής Ιστορίας, Τομέας Ιστορίας, Φιλοσοφική σχολή , ΕΚΠΑ.
Β. ΠΑΠΑΘΑΝΑΣΙΟΥ ΜΑΡΙΑ, Eπίκουρος Καθηγήτρια Νεότερης Ευρωπαϊκής Ιστορίας, Τομέας Ιστορίας, Φιλοσοφική σχολή, ΕΚΠΑ.
Γ. ΡΑΠΤΗΣ ΚΩΣΤΑΝΤΙΝΟΣ,Αναπληρωτής Καθηγητής Νεότερης Ευρωπαϊκής Ιστορίας, Τομέας Ιστορίας, Φιλοσοφική σχολή ΕΚΠΑ.
Original Title:
Από την αρωγή στην περιθωριοποίηση: Τα Βρετανικά Workhouses στα σύνορα δύο κόσμων 1770-1860.
Translated title:
From poor relief to marginalization: British workhouses on the threshold of two worlds, 1770-1860.
Since animals have been domesticated, one must not despair that the misguided person cannot be corrected 2

Around 1845, at Andover's Workhouse, the inmates took on a job that now seems inconceivable, that is to crush the bones of the dead with the aim of producing fertilizer for neighbouring farms. Until one day, fuelled by hunger and despair, they began to eat the raw flesh of their fellow humans, which had not yet decayed. Yet, just fifty years ago, a provincial court in a historic decision had formed a completely different setting by establishing a subsidy scale for the poor, based on the bread price.

It is obvious that a "great transformation", to use Karl Polanyi's phraseology, had taken place in these five decades. The benefits policy was accused as being responsible for the collapse of the productivity of the beneficiaries. The population growth was attributed to the benefits policy, which eventually led to the reduction of most of the external aid. Since then, anyone who sought relief should have such a need that he could endure life in one of the bleak foundations called Workhouses.

In 1944 the Great Transformation was published. In his book, Karl Polanyi argues that it was not the creation of the modern state as a consequence of the emergence of capitalism, but rather the State intervention that made it possible for the market economy to be established and survive. In fact, he considers this to be a relatively recent development, the form of which was crystallized in the first half of the 19th century. Within this extremely violent intervention, he also places the institution of Workhouses, since in his view, the wretchedness of living conditions within these institutions and the shame and worthlessness that they intended to cause to their inmates, in combination with the almost complete abolition of all external aid and community solidarity, would be the final attempt to push the poor into immigration and industry.

This paper attempts to address this particularly interesting point of view by placing its subject, namely the reassignment of the role of British Workhouses, within this problem. It follows the period from the late 18th up to the sixth decade of the 19th century, focusing on developments in the economy, society and the world ideas in Britain of that era. It describes the architecture of the institutions, the nutrition of the inmates, their organizational structure, as well as the people’s individual and collective resistance against the violence that they represented.

On the one hand, it seeks to ascertain, as far as possible, whether Polanyi's above-mentioned claims on this matter are substantiated by current historical data, but in no case is it restricted to that. Just because he believes that the great transformation, like any big wave of changes, is not always born in the time that its effects could be made visible, he also attempts to place the most important factors in the conversation among those whose reassignment and exploitation created the subjects, the ideas and the consensus that was necessary to bring about such a sizeable change.

It also seeks to engage in a dialogue with Karl Polanyi's mind, as well as other views that emphasize the role of economic structure, such as D. Ricardo's analysis, including aspects of M. Foucault's thoughts regarding the character of delinquency in those critical years.
Main subject category:
Workhouse, New Poor Law, poor relief ,Speenhamland.
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