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Population, Welfare and Economic Change in Britain, 1290-1834

Population, Welfare and Economic Change in Britain, 1290-1834

Chris Briggs
P. M. Kitson
S. J. Thompson
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Population, Welfare and Economic Change in Britain, 1290-1834
    Book Description:

    Population, Welfare and Economic Change presents the latest research on the causes and consequences of British population change from the medieval period to the eve of the Industrial Revolution, in both town and countryside. Its overarching concern is with the economic and demographic decision-making of individuals and groups and the extent to which these were constrained by institutions and resources. Within this, the volume's particular focus is on population growth: its causes and the welfare challenges it posed. Several chapters investigate the success with which the English Old Poor Law provided care for the poor and elderly, and new work on alternative welfare institutions, such as almshouses, is also presented. A further distinctive feature of this book is its comparative perspective. By making systematic comparisons between economic and demographic developments in pre-industrial Britain and those taking place in various regions of contemporary Continental Europe and Russia, several chapters uncover how far Britain in this period was 'different'. Stimulating to experts and students alike, Population, Welfare and Economic Change offers overviews and summaries of the latest scholarship by leading economic historians and historical demographers, alongside detailed case studies which showcase the original research of younger scholars. Chris Briggs is Lecturer in Medieval British Economic and Social History at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Selwyn College. P.M. Kitson is a former Research Associate at the Cambridge Group for the History of Population and Social Structure and Bye-Fellow of Downing College, Cambridge. S.J. Thompson is a former J.H. Plumb Fellow and Director of Studies in History at Christ's College, Cambridge. CONTRIBUTORS: Lorraine Barry, Jeremy Boulton, Chris Briggs, Bruce M.S. Campbell, Tracy Dennison, Nigel Goose, R.W. Hoyle, Peter Kitson, Julie Marfany, Rebecca Oakes, Sheilagh Ogilvie, Stephen Thompson, Samantha Williams, Sir Tony Wrigley, Margaret Yates

    eISBN: 978-1-78204-393-5
    Subjects: History, Economics, Population Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-IV)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. V-VI)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. VII-VIII)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. IX-X)
  5. List of Contributors
    (pp. XI-XIII)
  6. Acknowledgements
    (pp. XIV-XIV)
  7. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. XV-XVI)
  8. Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)

    This is a book about the character, causes and consequences of population change between the late thirteenth century and the early nineteenth century. Its focus is England, but this case is set in context through chapters which compare English material with evidence from Scotland, Wales, various parts of southern and northern Continental Europe, and Russia.

    Overall, these five centuries were a period of demographic growth in England and Great Britain. Bruce Campbell’s estimates presented below suggest that the population of Great Britain almost doubled between 1290 and 1801, rising from approximately 5.8 million to around 10.8 million, while that of...

  9. 1 European Marriage Patterns and their Implications: John Hajnal’s Essay and Historical Demography during the Last Half-Century
    (pp. 15-42)

    Hajnal’s essay was published in 1965. The opening sentences ran as follows:

    The marriage pattern of most of Europe as it existed for at least two centuries up to 1940 was, so far as we can tell, unique or almost unique in the world. There is no known example of a population of non-European civilization which has had a similar pattern.¹

    Hajnal then gave statistical substance to his assertion by demonstrating the scale and consistency of the contrast in marriage patterns between the countries of western and northern Europe on the one hand and those in eastern Europe in 1900,...

  10. 2 The Population Geography of Great Britain c.1290: a Provisional Reconstruction
    (pp. 43-78)

    A trio of publications made 1964 an auspicious year for historical population studies. Hollingsworth’s innovative reconstruction of the demography of the British peerage over four centuries linked information on birth, marriage and death for a clearly defined and well-documented social group.² Lawton deployed census returns for Great Britain in 1801 to map the distribution of population across the entire island at the earliest date for which comprehensive and relatively reliable data are available.³ And, inTenure and mobility, Raftis made pioneering use of manorial court rolls to reconstitute the social and demographic experience of late-medieval customary tenants.⁴ That same year,...

  11. 3 Mobility and Mortality: How Place of Origin Affected the Life Chances of Late Medieval Scholars at Winchester College and New College Oxford
    (pp. 79-102)

    Detailed examination of factors affecting mortality patterns among the medieval population of England has long presented a challenge to the historian. In the period preceding the commencement of parish records in 1538, life events were not systematically recorded so as to provide adequate data from which the demographic regime of medieval England can be accurately reconstructed. However, a range of sources has survived which enable analysis of certain demographic characteristics among particular communities or groups.¹ The payments of customary fines recorded in manorial court rolls, for example, have enabled the examination of marriage patterns, illegitimacy and mortality within particular communities,...

  12. 4 Family and Welfare in Early Modern Europe: a North–South Comparison
    (pp. 103-128)

    The relationship between family and welfare in Europe has long been and continues to be a central theme for historians, anthropologists, sociologists and demographers. Its importance has been given added weight in recent decades by policy debates on the future of welfare provision in many European countries, including Britain.¹ Both current debates and the historiography of the last two decades or so have tended to characterise family forms and welfare regimes in Europe in terms of a north–south (perhaps more accurately a north-west/south-east) divide.² Put simply, northern Europe tends to be associated with nuclear family forms, ‘weaker’ family ties,...

  13. 5 Support for the Elderly during the ‘Crisis’ of the English Old Poor Law
    (pp. 129-152)

    In early modern England many elderly men and women faced deep poverty in old age.¹ A legal obligation to relieve the aged poor was enshrined in the Elizabethan poor law legislation of 1598–1601 (39 Eliz., c. 3; 39 Eliz., c. 4; 43 Eliz., c. 2).² Overseers were to dispense the money rated from local inhabitants for relief of the ‘lame impotent old [and] blind’.³ Under the old poor law, the aged were considered the most deserving of parochial relief. Those who could no longer work due to age and infirmity were generally preferentially treated by the parish authorities: they...

  14. 6 Indoors or Outdoors? Welfare Priorities and Pauper Choices in the Metropolis under the Old Poor Law, 1718–1824
    (pp. 153-188)

    One of the most striking – and still not well understood – features of many eighteenth-century parish welfare systems is surely the survival of outdoor relief in parishes that built workhouses under the 1723 ‘Workhouse Test Act’. That act was designed to deter those in need from applying for poor relief by applying the workhouse test. Those refusing to enter the new workhouses could, quite legally, be denied poor relief. The new workhouses would instil much needed work discipline, reduce the overall costs of poor relief and perhaps improve the morals and manners of those incarcerated. Workhouses spread quite rapidly...

  15. 7 Population Growth and Corporations of the Poor, 1660–1841
    (pp. 189-226)

    The publication, in 1798, of T. R. Malthus’sAn essay on the principle of population, marked a turning point in contemporary attitudes to the English poor laws. Malthus’sEssaycondemned the institutional framework established by the 1601 Act for the Relief of the Poor for generating unsustainable population growth. The apparent failure of the poor laws to remove the poor’s distress was not, Malthus claimed, due to fraud or mismanagement, as other critics of the system had argued, but was an intrinsic feature of their design and operation.¹ The fundamental weakness of the poor laws – especially in the wake...

  16. 8 Charity and Commemoration: a Berkshire Family and their Almshouse, 1675–1763
    (pp. 227-248)

    In comparison with the volume of research dedicated to the history of formal, state-sponsored poor relief, research into the history of philanthropy is in its infancy. Within the gamut of private philanthropy, a particularly neglected topic among academic historians is the English almshouse, although there are a considerable number of popular (and often pictorial) almshouse histories, many of which command academic respect. This neglect is perhaps surprising, given the ubiquity and longevity of these institutions. This chapter provides a contribution towards rectification of this situation by focusing upon the Raymond almshouses founded by Philip Jemmett in the late seventeenth century...

  17. 9 The Institutional Context of Serfdom in England and Russia
    (pp. 249-268)

    The role of institutions in economic growth and development has attracted considerable attention from social scientists in recent years. Law, in particular, and its importance in the assignment of property rights and contract enforcement, has been emphasised in the development economics and legal history literatures. Research on modern-day developing societies has revealed a robust link between the existence of formal legal institutions and the potential for economic growth and development.¹

    But not everyone is convinced. A more sceptical view of the role of institutions has emerged in recent years, particularly among economic historians. According to the sceptics, property rights and...

  18. 10 Choices and Constraints in the Pre-Industrial Countryside
    (pp. 269-306)

    This chapter addresses a central tension between two sides of rural history – one stressing peasant choices, the other the constraints on those choices. For the one side, key concepts are ‘individualism’, ‘autonomy’, ‘rationality’, ‘voluntarism’, and ‘agency’. For the other, they are ‘class struggle’, ‘exploitation’, ‘extra-economic coercion’, ‘social structure’, and ‘institutions’. This chapter argues that both strands of analysis can deepen our understanding of the pre-industrial countryside – not just in England but in many other societies. But pursuing the one and ignoring the other can lead us astray. Only by attentiveness both to people’s choices and to the constraints...

  19. 11 Some Commercial Implications of English Individualism
    (pp. 307-332)
    R. W. HOYLE

    Some thirty years ago and more, Alan Macfarlane dropped a sizeable bombshell.¹ He told us, with some vigour, what we always knew to be true but had been inclined to overlook: that in England, property was owned by individuals and not by kin groups, and that the individual owners of property had the right of sale without reference to kin, even their children. Macfarlane saw this mostly in terms of the ownership of land and, as will be recalled, held that the sale of land was frequent and the continuity of ownership within families limited. This prompted much debate and...

  20. Select Bibliography
    (pp. 333-336)
  21. Index
    (pp. 337-345)
  22. Back Matter
    (pp. 346-347)