Poverty and charity in England

  • Lloyd, Sarah (PI)

Project: Research

Project Details

Key findings

A period of research leave funded by this grant allowed completed of a monograph, Charity and Poverty in England, c.1680-1820: wild and visionary schemes. This book explores responses to poverty in eighteenth-century England, with an eye to some of the odder manifestations of charity and poor relief. Whether discussing proposals for vast inland colonies or cosy firesides, men and women demonstrated that imagination, excitement and experiment were as important as systematic argument in making early-modern social policy. Ceremonies and material objects encapsulated ideas and attracted supporters; energy poured into realising imagined prospects in buildings, streetscapes and landscapes across England and beyond.

Faced with competing ideas, contemporaries struggled to separate the sensible from the fantastic, the chimerical from the practical. They appealed to utility to underwrite their own endeavours and rejected the wilder reaches of speculation and fancy. But usefulness was itself a feat of imagination. Commandeered to legitimate a range of promises, it too was manifested in grand spectacle and tiny details. The feasibility of a scheme often proved to be the outcome of debate and an effect of hindsight, not an objective measure.

Charity and Poverty in England aimed to shed fresh light on ideas and lived experience, on cultural worlds in which social relations were unevenly worked out. It analyses the settings in which gentlemen, magistrates, officials, pamphleteers, ladies and neighbours reacted to the poverty of others, and poor people asserted their own beliefs and experiences.

Effective start/end date1/02/065/06/06


  • Arts and Humanities Research Board: £14,013.00


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