The British Workhouse in the Long Eighteenth Century


ACLS Fellowship Program




Workhouses were a prominent feature of the British landscape in the eighteenth century, occupying considerable physical and intellectual space. While many saw them as an essential part of a set of institutional remedies for the problems of poverty and labor discipline, others viewed them as a fundamental infringement of British social ideals. Using pamphlets, parliamentary debates, political papers, and periodicals, this project situates discussions of the workhouse within the wider political and economic climate of this era. In addition, archival sources allow us to draw a picture of the experience of both the governors and inmates of these institutions. The study of the workhouse sheds light on the central question of the nature of the relationship between the poor and the elite of the parish while also revealing a deeper understanding of the period’s views on rights and reciprocity.