Being Poor in England in the Long Eighteenth Century (HIH1023)

Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.5
NQF Level4
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks;

Module aims

The aim of the module is to introduce students to the broad range of sources available to the modern historian, through study of the main developments relating to poverty and poor relief in the long eighteenth century. Individual seminars (see topic list below) will focus on various sources, such as visual sources, petitions, institutional records, criminal records, diaries, novels, legislation, and material culture. Students will also have the opportunity to conduct their own research into these sources, consider their value and limitations, and use them to explore particular topics and themes. This module will help students develop skills in source analysis and research to provide a foundation for future historical work.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Understand and assess the main developments in English poverty during the long eighteenth century.
  • 2. Work critically with a range of written and visual sources relating to the topic.
  • 3. Assess the sources in relation to the historical debates, purposes for which different contemporary sources were produced, and analyse and evaluate their reliability and usefulness for the study of the history of poverty.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Identify the problems of using historical sources, e.g. utility, limitations, etc, and compare the validity of different types of sources.
  • 5. Answer a question briefly and concisely.
  • 6. Present work orally, respond to questions orally, and think quickly of questions to ask other students.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. Conduct independent study and group work, including the presentation of material for group discussion, developed through the mode of learning.
  • 8. Digest, select and organise material to produce, to a deadline, a coherent and cogent argument, developed through the mode of assessment.
  • 9. Work with others in a team and to interact effectively with the tutor and the wider group.
  • 10. Write to a very tight word-length.

Syllabus plan

Weekly seminar topics may vary, but can include: the gendering of poverty; making shift and strategies for survival; workhouses and baby farms; the poor law and charity; regulating the poor; vagrancy and punishment; attitudes towards poverty.  

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching activities22 hour lecture: Introduction to module
Scheduled learning and teaching activities2010 x 2 hour seminars. At a meeting of the whole class generally a different group of 3-4 students will give a presentation to the whole class, followed by class discussion and working through the sources for that week carefully. Additional sources may be issued in the class and the lecturer will also use the time to set up issues for the following week.
Guided independent study128Students prepare for the session through reading and research; writing five source commentaries and an essay and preparing one group presentation in the course of the term.

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Group presentation (3-4 students)10-15 minutes1-4, 6-7, 9Oral
Lowest mark from portfolio of 5 source commentaries500 words1-5, 7-8, 10Mark and written comments

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
4 highest marks from portfolio of 5 source commentaries602000 words (500 per commentary)1-5, 7-8, 10Mark and written comments.
Essay on Sources401500 words1-5, 7-8, 10Mark and written comments

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
4 highest marks of portfolio of 5 source commentaries4 highest marks of portfolio of 5 source commentaries1-5, 7-8, 10Referral/deferral period.
1500-word essay1500-word essay1-5, 7-8, 10Referral/deferral period.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Andrew, Donna T. Philanthropy and Police: London Charity in the Eighteenth Century (Princeton, 1989).
  • Fissell, Mary. Patients, Power and the Poor in Eighteenth-Century Bristol (Cambridge, 1991).
  • Green, David. Pauper Capital: London and the Poor Law 1790-1870(Surrey, 2010).
  • Hepburn, James. A book of scattered leaves : poetry of poverty in broadside ballads of nineteenth-century England. Vol. 1, Study and anthology (London, 2000).
  • Hitchcock, Tim. Down and Out in Eighteenth Century London (London, 2004).
  • Hitchcock, Tim, Pamela Sharpe and Peter King (eds.). Chronicling Poverty: The Voices and Strategies of the English Poor, 1640-1840 (New York, 1997).
  • Hindle, Steve. On the Parish?: The Micro-Politics of Poor Relief in Rural England, c.1550-1750(Oxford, 2004).
  • Honeyman, Katrina. Child Workers in England, 1780-1820: Parish Apprentices and the Making of the Early Industrial Labour Force (Aldershot, 2007).
  • King, Steven. Poverty and Welfare in England, 1700-1850. Manchester, 2000.
  • Murphy, Elaine. ‘The Metropolitan Pauper Farms 1722-1834’, London Journal, 27:1 (2002), pp. 1-18.
  • Rogers, Nicholas. ‘Policing the Poor in Eighteenth-Century London: The Vagrancy Laws and Their Administration’, Histoire Sociale / Social History, 24 (1991), pp. 127-47.
  • Snell, Keith D. M. Parish and Belonging: Community, Identity and Welfare in England and Wales, 1700-1950 (Cambridge, 2006).
  • Tomkins, Alannah. The experience of urban poverty, 1723-82 : parish, charity and credit (Manchester, 2006).
  • Williams, Samantha. Poverty, gender and life-cycle under the English poor law, 1760-1834 (Woodbridge, 2011).

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Key words search

Poor, England, Long Eighteenth Century.