Welfare Regimes under the Irish Poor Law 1850-1921
Irish workhouse plan
Funded by ESRC
Co-directors: (History) and Dr Virginia Crossman (Oxford Brookes University). Research Assistant at QUB: Dr Olwen Purdue
Conference: 'Welfare and Poverty in Ireland, c.1833-1948' (QUB, 26-7 June 2009).
Click here for Conference website and programme.
This project will provide the first detailed and wide-ranging analysis of poor relief in post-Famine
Ireland . It will open up a major new area of Irish social history and make a significant contribution to comparative studies of poverty and welfare, and of regional governance. Despite the expansion of Irish social history in recent decades, the poor law remains an almost totally neglected topic. With the exception of the period of the Great Famine (1845-50), very little research has been undertaken into the nature of the relief system established by the Irish poor law act of 1838, or how it developed over the course of the nineteenth century. Through the identification and analysis of relief practices and the profiling of the recipients of relief, the project will provide crucial information regarding the distribution and utilisation of poor relief, and will highlight the role of economic, social and political factors in the formulation and execution of national and local relief policies. The research undertaken will deepen our understanding of perceptions of and attitudes towards poverty and its relief and of the experience of being poor. Findings will be disseminated by publication, conference papers and conference organisation.
Aims and Objectives:
1. To examine the provision and distribution of poor relief in Ireland in the period from 1850 when the harshest effects of the Great Famine were receding to the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1921.
2. To explore how far the availability of relief was subject to changing interpretations of eligibility and to contextualise these changes within the social, economic and political developments of the period.
3. To test the hypothesis that the political, religious and economic geography of
Ireland was reflected in relief practices giving rise to three identifiable welfare regimes.
4. To investigate the choices open to and the strategies developed by poor and vulnerable people seeking poor relief.
5. To scrutinize the link between poverty and social and political exclusion.
6. To contribute to the literature on the history of poverty and welfare and to fill significant gaps in that literature with regard to