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Technologies of identification under the Old Poor Law\ud

By Steve Hindle


In this important article Steve Hindle, the leading historian of the local state and the pre-1834 Poor Law, considers the different ways in which parish and township authorities labelled and identified paupers. His paper is closely based upon the lecture which he gave to the British Association for Local History in June 2006. Steve Hindle gives an accessible and comprehensive explanation of the background and rationale for the various ways in which the poor could be categorised, and discusses in fascinating detail the methods which were used, drawing his evidence widely from different parts of the country. His review covers four main categories of identification: first, licences to beg, which were issued to paupers and provided them with the means to obtain an ‘honourable’ livelihood; second, the vagrant’s passport, which was a means of allowing a pauper to move, or be moved, from one part of the country to another; third, the settlement certificate, which specifically identified the place which was legally responsible for a pauper; and fourth, the parish badge, an outward physical identifier of pauper status. He makes clear the administrative procedures whereby these four methods were implemented, and emphasises the advantages and disadvantages of each for the pauper and the ‘system’ alike. In this article Hindle gives prominence to the pragmatic and responsive nature of the Old Poor Law. The article is a major contribution to the literature on the functioning of the Poor Law as it affected individuals, and as such deserves to be widely-read by local historians

Topics: HN, DA
Publisher: British Association for Local History
Year: 2006
OAI identifier:

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