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In Their Own Write: Punishing the Victorian Pauper Complainer

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Uncover how paupers easily found themselves disciplined or 'punished' for writing letters of complaint about how they were treated by local poor law authorities.

Conceptually, the new workhouse buildings were built as disciplinary structures (high walls, locked doors, segregated areas etc.) which displayed the visible administrative power of the New Poor Law.

The history of the New Poor Law, and the iconic workhouse in particular, abounded with rumoured punishments. Contemporary reports proliferated with allegations of near starvation (or actual starvation), the denial of decent living conditions, the forced separation of mothers from their babies and of the dead from their relatives. Much has been written in these areas but we’ll be focusing on the punishing of paupers by local authorities for the act of complaining to the central poor law authority in London. So were paupers punished for complaining, how might these punishments be dispensed, and how might paupers mitigate punishment while still complaining to the authorities in London?

About the speaker:

Paul Carter is the co-investigator and the lead at The National Archives on In Their Own Write, a major Arts and Humanities Research Council funded research project undertaken with Professor Steve King at (initially) the University of Leicester, and (now) at Nottingham Trent University.

Learn more about In Their Own Write.

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Organiser The National Archives

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The National Archives is the official archive and publisher for the UK government, and for England and Wales.  We are the guardians of some of our most iconic national documents, dating back over 1,000 years.

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