The Economic History Review

Identifying the poor in the 1870s and 1880s1

Volume 61 Issue 2
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Pages: 302-325Authors: ALAN GILLIE
Published online: August 28, 2007DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-0289.2007.00395.x

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Poverty lines devised throughout England and Wales in the 1870s and 1880s defined ‘the poor’, a new class not recognized by the poor law. This article provides an account of the poverty lines adopted, mainly by school boards, in about 40 different places; the context in which they were developed; and what has been retrieved of the reasons determining the adoption of specific poverty lines. In particular, it examines the principal controversies surrounding them, and the challenge they posed to the poor law; and, incidentally, compares them to the poverty lines proposed, many years later, by Booth and Rowntree.