… is perhaps the earliest example of the tyranny of the expert.’ [Eric J. Evans]
The Poor Law Reform Act in 1834 is widely considered one of the biggest changes in social welfare that Britain has ever seen. There are some historians that even argue the change that the Reform Act brought was even greater than the development of the Welfare State in the immediate post-war world of 1945.
What were the reasons for this change in welfare? Previous to the Poor Law Reform Act Britain was the first country to implement its unique system of welfare to the struggling poor. There was a degree of paternalism that meant the rich looked after the poor (to a degree, at least). As the population grew throughout the late eighteenth century and into the nineteenth, and hand in hand with the demobilization of the military after the war with France/Napoleon, there was greater strain on the existing poor-law.
The Royal Poor Law Commission, was set up to investigate the supposed over reliance on the poor-law (of course, growing population and the technological revolution certainly had an effect on this). Despite local parishes having already implemented change in how they dealt with the poor and giving out poor relief, the Royal Commission probably over exaggerated the situation in order to really benefit the landed elite.
The question of poverty is an interesting subject. What determines poverty? In some countries you could be considered in poverty if you don’t have a television. In some countries, it’s to do with medicine, etc.
This is sort of my exam tomorrow. I’m hoping it will go well tomorrow…