Location

Guzman 104, Dominican University of California

Start Date

4-17-2019 6:40 PM

Department

Humanities and Cultural Studies

Student Type

Undergraduate

Faculty Mentor(s)

Chase Clow, PhD and Patricia Dougherty, OP, PhD

Presentation Format

Oral Presentation

Abstract/Description

ABSTRACT:

How to correct poverty in a society is extremely complex. In the nineteenth century, the British struggled to house, feed and care for the unemployed and destitute men, women and children created by the Industrial Revolution. Many in the upper classes considered poverty a moral failure, yet they had little impetus to end it. Poverty, as defined by an inability to provide for one’s needs due to a variety of factors, was seen as necessary, for without it there would be no motivation for the lower classes to work and provide a luxurious life for the wealthy.

Although some in government argued that the basic needs of the poor (such as, nutrition, housing, and medical care) could be provided through outdoor relief, others contended that the poor should labor for any assistance they received through a form of aid called the workhouse system. This paper examines 1) the implementation of work as punishment, 2) the institution of harsh rules in the workhouse, 3) the restrictions to personal freedoms, and 4) the overall treatment of workhouse inmates. The environment in the workhouse was so demeaning, cruel, and dangerous that it often defeated the mission of the workhouse system to sustain the populace it was built to support.

Evidence of the failure to fulfill its mission is found in an analysis of primary sources such as Workhouse Guardian’s reports, letters from inmates, statements from medical examiners as well as other first-hand written accounts from occupants of the workhouse. In addition, a review of scholarly articles, literature, photographs, satirical cartoons, paintings and newspaper accounts confirms that conditions in the workhouses were less than desirable and were places to avoid.

If people shun a public service due to its environment and preconditions for entrance, or if they are injured or die due to negligence on the part of the institution, then the system has not met its mission to sustain the poor and was not a viable alternative to poverty.

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Apr 17th, 6:40 PM

The Nineteenth Century British Workhouse: Mission Not Accomplished

Guzman 104, Dominican University of California

ABSTRACT:

How to correct poverty in a society is extremely complex. In the nineteenth century, the British struggled to house, feed and care for the unemployed and destitute men, women and children created by the Industrial Revolution. Many in the upper classes considered poverty a moral failure, yet they had little impetus to end it. Poverty, as defined by an inability to provide for one’s needs due to a variety of factors, was seen as necessary, for without it there would be no motivation for the lower classes to work and provide a luxurious life for the wealthy.

Although some in government argued that the basic needs of the poor (such as, nutrition, housing, and medical care) could be provided through outdoor relief, others contended that the poor should labor for any assistance they received through a form of aid called the workhouse system. This paper examines 1) the implementation of work as punishment, 2) the institution of harsh rules in the workhouse, 3) the restrictions to personal freedoms, and 4) the overall treatment of workhouse inmates. The environment in the workhouse was so demeaning, cruel, and dangerous that it often defeated the mission of the workhouse system to sustain the populace it was built to support.

Evidence of the failure to fulfill its mission is found in an analysis of primary sources such as Workhouse Guardian’s reports, letters from inmates, statements from medical examiners as well as other first-hand written accounts from occupants of the workhouse. In addition, a review of scholarly articles, literature, photographs, satirical cartoons, paintings and newspaper accounts confirms that conditions in the workhouses were less than desirable and were places to avoid.

If people shun a public service due to its environment and preconditions for entrance, or if they are injured or die due to negligence on the part of the institution, then the system has not met its mission to sustain the poor and was not a viable alternative to poverty.