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Poverty, Poor Relief and Policy in Britain and Beyond c. 1600-1900 Conference

This conference brings together researchers to generate new discussions and directions for the study of poverty, and insights for policy.

About this event

Due to a number of impoverishing calamities in the first decades of the 21st century, including the financial crisis, accelerated climate breakdown, and the COVID-19 pandemic, ideas about how to eliminate poverty, provide support and transform welfare policies, have become pressing once again.

At the same time, there has been a resurgence in interest in understanding poverty and poor relief during the first three centuries of organised social welfare in Britain. Literature has examined the development of ideas about poverty and poor relief, and how the policies and practices these ideas inspired were developed, adopted, revised, and abandoned. We have developed more nuanced understandings of the roles of individuals working within the spheres of poverty and poor relief, including key thinkers, MPs, local administrators and the poor themselves, and a wider understanding of the ‘mixed economy of welfare’ of the past, with examples of how charities, credit, self-help organisations, could both support and undermine statutory welfare systems. In addition, through intense research of ‘narratives of the poor’, and the excavation of sources including pauper letters, we have uncovered how those in poverty understood their own situations, and had a thorough knowledge of entitlements and policies which enabled them to secure help for themselves as well as friends, family members and neighbours.

There is much to learn from these historical studies. Yet, despite the number of academics working in these areas, there have been very few opportunities over recent years to share ideas and interests at a dedicated event. The aim of this two-day conference is to bring together academics from disciplines across the humanities and social sciences in order to generate new discussions and directions in understanding poverty and poor relief. We hope for a diverse range of approaches and perspectives to consider, and we encourage submissions from doctoral students and early-career researchers.

Date and time 

Mon, 11 Apr 2022, 09:00 – Tue, 12 Apr 2022, 18:00 BST


Canterbury Christ Church University

North Holmes Road



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Canterbury Festival 2021
  Canterbury Festival