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Institute of Continuing Education (ICE)


Pioneering research by Dr Samantha Williams, University Lecturer and ICE's Academic Director for Local and Regional History, has made the news this week following the publication of her new book on the English Poor Law.

In Poverty, Gender and Life-Cycle under the English Poor Law, 1760-1834, Dr Williams examines the plight of the poor and their families in two Bedfordshire communities between 1760 and the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834. Challenging commonly-held beliefs that the poor of centuries past were left to flounder in poverty, her work reveals that a generous system of welfare existed in parts of England – with lone mothers and the elderly by far the largest recipients.

The Guardian and BBC Online have both published lengthy articles which use Dr Willams's research to compare welfare provision in the 18th and 19th centuries with that of the present day.

Social security: remaking poverty history - on the Guardian website

Were single mothers better off in the 19th Century? - on the BBC News website

Earlier this week she was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. Fellowships are awarded to those who have made an original contribution to historical scholarship in the form of significant published work.

Find out more

Her book, Poverty, Gender and Life-Cycle under the English Poor Law, 1760-1834 is published by Boydell and Brewer in hardback (ISBN: 9780861933143).

Find out more about the book and read an extract – on the Boydell and Brewer website

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