Gwybodaeth Modiwlau

Module Identifier
Module Title
From Poor Law to Welfare State: Poverty and Welfare in Modern Britain, 1815-1948
Academic Year
Semester 2
Exclusive (Any Acad Year)
Reading List
Other Staff

Course Delivery



Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Essay  2500 Words  50%
Semester Assessment Open exam  2500 Words  50%
Supplementary Assessment Essay  2500 Words  50%
Supplementary Assessment Open exam  2500 Words  50%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

1. Engage with the many historiographical debates that have characterised historical work on poverty and social welfare;

2. Assess the ideas and debates that characterized the creation and implementation of social policy;

3. Evaluate the impact of social policies on ordinary people;

4. Place social welfare developments in their longer-term social, economic and political contexts.

Brief description

This course will consider the history of poverty and the responses to poverty in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Britain, and will focus on these developments in their social, cultural, economic and political contexts. The development of centrally provided welfare services and the corresponding extension of the state into various aspects of people’s lives was an important feature of this period and yet central government was, for much of the period, merely one among a number of social welfare providers. The state, the voluntary sector (including both philanthropy and working-class mutualism), the family and the market were all involved in responses to poverty. The course will examine the ‘moving frontier’ between the state and these other providers of social welfare and will consider the practical, social and political implications of increasing state intervention.

Themes to be studied include: the expansion of state responsibility for the relief of poverty; social welfare provision as a result of political conflict and consensus; the gendered nature of poverty; the attitudes and responses of the working class to social welfare; the impact of war on official and popular attitudes to social reform; the significance of welfare policies for changing standards of living. An integral aspect of the course will be the examination of primary sources including official papers, social surveys and social policy tracts.


Lecture syllabus

1. Introduction
2. The ‘Old’ Poor Law
3. The ‘New’ Poor Law
4. Voluntarism and Philanthropy
5. Self-help and Mutual Aid
6. The Late-Victorian Poor Law
7. Eugenics and Poverty
8. Social Surveys and Investigations
9. The New Philanthropy
10. Edwardian Social Reform
11. Interwar Unemployment and Poverty
12. Voluntary Work Among the Unemployed
13. Interwar Social Surveys and Investigations
14. Poverty and Protest
15. The Second World War
16. A New Jerusalem?: Poverty and the Welfare State
17. The Re-discovery of Poverty in the 1960s
18. Conclusion

Seminar syllabus
1. The Poor Law from below: Pauper Letters
2. The Workhouse
3. Poverty, Working-Class Respectability, and Mutualism
4. Social Welfare, the State and the Working Class
5. The Meaning of Poverty in Interwar Britain
6. Poverty in the Welfare State.

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number Statistical data on poverty and other matters will be presented in the form of tables, graphs and figures in lectures, and students will need to demonstrate a basic grasp of quantitative material in their written work.
Communication Written communication skills will be developed through the coursework and written examination; skills in oral presentation will be developed in seminars but are not formally assessed.
Improving own Learning and Performance Students will be advised on how to improve research and communication skills through the individual tutorial providing feedback on submitted coursework.
Information Technology Students will be encouraged to locate suitable material on the web and to apply it appropriately to their own work. Students will also be expected to word-process their work and make use of Blackboard. These skills will not be formally assessed.
Personal Development and Career planning Students will develop a range of transferable skills, including time management and communication skills, which may help them identify their personal strengths as they consider potential career paths.
Problem solving Students are expected to note and respond to historical problems which arise as part of the study of this subject area and to undertake suitable research for seminars and essays.
Research skills Students will develop their research skills by reading a range of texts and evaluating their usefulness in preparation for the coursework and the written examination.
Subject Specific Skills
Team work Students will be expected to play an active part in group activities (e.g. short group presentations in seminars) and to learn to evaluate their own contribution to such activities.


This module is at CQFW Level 5