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The Poor in England 1700-1850: An Economy of Makeshifts (Documents in Modern History S.) Paperback – 21 Jan 2010


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Review

'Each chapter is fluently written and deeply immersed in primary sources. The work as a whole makes an original contribution to the historiography of poverty, combining as it does a high degree of scholarship with intellectual innovation.' --Anne Borsay, University of Wales, Swansea

About the Author

Steven King is Professor of History at Oxford Brookes University; Alannah Tomkins is Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Keele


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Amazon.com: 3.0 out of 5 stars 1 review
3.0 out of 5 stars The editors make over much of their groundbreaking work 13 April 2013
By CIPANNE - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This short collection of historiographical essays examining the makeshift economies of the working poor of England over the hundred and fifty years in the title, are of moderate interest to the social historian. Despite the claims of the two editors, however, they do not break as much new ground or present much in the way of new perspectives on either the makeshifts or the lives of poorer sections of the labouring classes. Besides the few historians they do mention as significant in the study of this aspect of labouring life, (Olwen Hufton springs to mind), E.P.Thompson, Mick Reed, Raphael Samuel and others also pointed the way, even if they did not pursue exactly the same threads. Yes, the present authors in this volume have revealed particular strategies of the poor, especially their attempts to cobble together by licit and illicit means a means of personal and familial survival in the face of the poor law's unwillingness and/or inability to provide any or sufficient relief. And yes, these historians have undoubtedly unearthed facts and construed facets of the lives of the poor hitherto ignored or given scant attention. Yet as I read and marked each essay, it seemed to me that something of the argument being forwarded had been advanced before. So my sense that the claim to be setting a "new theoretical and empirical framework" is overwrought.

As for the actual writing - neither Thompson nor Christopher Hill, for example, are they. The writing lacks the clarity, the incisiveness, the fluidity or the semantic accuracy of those historians. The pedestrian and awkward text did little to further their arguments or interest in their chosen focus. And about that I am truly dismayed because the lives of the labouring poor is my area of history, too.
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