Life in a workhouse during the Victorian and Edwardian eras has been popularly characterised as a brutal existence. Charles Dickens famously portrayed workhouse inmates as being dirty, neglected, overworked and at the mercy of exploitative masters. While there were undoubtedly establishments that conformed to this stereotype, there is also evidence of a more enlightened approach that has not yet come to public attention. This book establishes a true picture of what life was like in a workhouse, of why inmates entered them and of what they had to endure in their day-to-day routine. A comprehensive overview of the workhouse system gives a real and compelling insight into social and moral reasons behind their growth in the Victorian era, while the kind of distinctions that were drawn between inmates are looked into, which, along with the social stigma of having been a workhouse inmate, tell us much about class attitudes of the time. The book also looks at living conditions and duties of the staff who, in many ways, were prisoners of the workhouse. Michelle Higgs combines thorough research with a fresh outlook on a crucial period in British history, and in doing so paints a vivid portrait of an era and its social standards that continues to fascinate, and tells us much about the society we live in today.
Michelle Higgs is a freelance writer and author based in the West Midlands. She is passionate about history in all its forms, especially local history, genealogy and social history. When researching her books, she looks for the little details about how people lived and worked which really help to bring the past to life.
Her first book was Christmas Cards (Shire Books, 1999), which dealt with the history of Christmas cards and how to start a collection. She subsequently became fascinated by all things Victorian and progressed to writing a trilogy of books about the social history of three very different institutions. Life in the Victorian and Edwardian Workhouse and Prison Life in Victorian England were both published by The History Press in 2007, followed by Life in the Victorian Hospital in 2009.
Michelle's fifth book, Tracing Your Medical Ancestors, was published by Pen & Sword (2011). It is aimed specifically at people who have discovered a doctor, nurse or other medical professional in their family trees. Her latest book in the same series is Tracing Your Servant Ancestors (published May 2012). It is for anyone who wants to know more about their servant ancestor's working life.
As a freelance writer, Michelle has written for a wide range of publications including Who Do You Think You Are?, Period House, Discover My Past and Family History Monthly.
When not writing or researching, Michelle enjoys the great outdoors, walking the dog, going to the cinema, watching tennis and reading. Visit her website at www.michellehiggs.co.uk