The Solidarities of Strangers: The English Poor Laws and the People, 1700-1948

2007
Cambridge University Press

This study of English policies toward the poor from the seventeenth century to the present combines individual stories with official actions. Lynn Lees shows how clients as well as officials negotiated welfare settlements--cultural definitions of entitlement, rather than available resources, determined amounts and beneficiaries. The English poor laws went through cycles of generosity and meanness that affected men and women unequally. The long term history of welfare in England and Wales was not one of continued progress and improvement but one determined by continually changing attitudes toward poverty.