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'A resonating void' : strategies and responses to poverty, Bath, 1770-1835

Chivers, J (2006) 'A resonating void' : strategies and responses to poverty, Bath, 1770-1835. PhD thesis, Bath Spa University.

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Abstract

This thesis addresses the lives of the poor in Bath in the period 1770 to 1835, a period of rapid expansion, spatially and demographically, and a time of change both locally and nationally. Because of the importance to Bath of image, the labouring poor have been marginalised. This thesis will help to fill 'a resonating void' in Bath's historiography. It makes an important addition to urban history as a study of a spa resort, and adds to the rather patchy history of poverty in an eighteenth-century urban context. It confirms the view that women were the main recipients of attention under the Old Poor Laws. Using Poor Law records, charity records and Coroners' records, the thesis shows how the poor used the Poor Laws to access poor relief and establish settlements. In times of illness or accident they applied to medical charities. Some women turned to prostitution, and some subsequently entered the Bath Penitentiary and Lock Hospital seeking rehabilitation. Some single, female, domestic servants committed infanticide and some of the poor took their own lives. The authorities acted promptly and pragmatically to examine, and possibly remove, applicants, often single women. They manipulated the apprenticeship scheme as part of a poor relief strategy, and to ensure future labour requirements. The civic elite founded charities to address the problem of begging, to assist the sick or injured poor and used legislation to clean the streets of beggars and prostitutes. Changes in the 1820s have been detected, in line with national trends, suggesting that a tougher line was being taken by the civic elite towards the poor. It reveals the relationship between overseers, justices, the charitable elite and the poor in an eighteenth-century city, characterised by pragmatism on one hand and agency on the other, and adds a more nuanced aspect to the history of Bath while providing an important addition to a national picture of urban poverty.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information:

A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of the University of the West of England, Bristol, for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at Bath Spa University.

Divisions: College of Liberal Arts
Date Deposited: 18 Jun 2013 16:00
Last Modified: 29 Apr 2016 13:29
URI: http://researchspace.bathspa.ac.uk/id/eprint/1468
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