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Workhouses and punishment (Historiography)

Key Reading

Clive Emsley, Crime and Society in England, chapter 10

Further Reading

  • Beate Althammer, Andreas Gestrich, Jens Grundler (eds), The welfare state and the 'deviant poor' in Europe, 1870-1933 , esp chapters 3 & 4
  • Joseph Harley, 'Material lives of the poor and their strategic use of the workhouse during the final decades of the English old poor law' Continuity and Change, 2014
  • J. Boulton and L. Schwarz, 'The medicalisation of a parish workhouse in Georgian Westminster : St Martin in the Fields, 1725–1824', Family & Community History, 2014
  • Lewis Darwen, 'Workhouse Populations of the Preston Union, 1841-61', Local Population Studies, 2014
  • Megan Evans and Peter Jones, ''A stubborn, intractable body' : resistance to the workhouse in Wales, 1834–1877', Family & Community History, 2014
  • Charlotte Newman, 'To Punish or Protect : The New Poor Law and the English Workhouse', International Journal of Historical Archaeology, 2014
  • Jane Hamlett, Lesley Hoskins and Rebecca Preston, Residential institutions in Britain, 1725-1970 : inmates and environments
  • Ian Miller, Ian, 'Feeding in the Workhouse : The Institutional and Ideological Functions of Food in Britain, ca. 1834–70', Journal of British Studies, 2013
  • Jonathan Reinarz and Leonard Schwarz, Medicine and the workhouse
  • Ruth Richardson, Dickens and the workhouse : Oliver Twist and the London poor
  • Andrew J. Gritt and Peter Park, 'The workhouse populations of Lancashire in 1881' Local Population Studies 2011
  • David Green, Pauper capital : London and the Poor Law, 1790-1870 
  • Elaine Murphy, 'Workhouse care of the insane, 1845-1890' in Pamela Dale and Joseph Melling, Mental illness and learning disability since 1850 : finding a place for mental disorder in the United Kingdom
  • Anna Clark, 'Wild Workhouse Girls and the Liberal Imperial State in Mid-Nineteenth Century Ireland',
    Journal of Social History, 2005
  • R. Adair, B. Forsythe and J. Melling, ‘A Danger to the Public? Disposing of Pauper Lunatics in Late-Victorian and Edwardian England: Plympton St Mary Union and the Devon County Asylum, 1867-1914’, Medical History, 42 (1998)
  • Felix Driver, ‘The Historical Geography of the Workhouse System in England and Wales, 1834-1883’, Journal of Historical Geography, 15 (1989)
  • Leonard Smith, ‘The Pauper Lunatic Problem in the West Midlands 1818-1850’, Midland History, 21 (1996)
  • P. Bartlett, The Poor Law of Lunacy: The Administration of Pauper Lunatics in Mid-Nineteenth-Century England
  • Frank Crompton, Workhouse Children: Infant and Child Paupers Under the Worcestershire Poor Law 1781 -1871
  • M. A. Crowther, The Workhouse System 1834 -1929: The History of an English Social Institution
  • Anne Digby, Pauper Palaces
  • Simon Fowler, The Workhouse: the People, the Places, the Life Behind Doors
  • Nigel Goose, ‘Workhouse Populations in the Mid Nineteenth Century: the Case of Hertfordshire’, Local Population Studies, 62 (1999)
  • Norman Longmate, The Workhouse
  • Kathryn Morrison, The Workhouse: a Study of Poor Law Buildings in England
  • Peter Wood, Poverty and the Workhouse in Victorian Britain


  • Were workhouses prisons or pauper palaces?
  • How effective were workhouses at dealing with issues of poverty and crime?
  • What resistance to workhouses were there, and how effective were these?
  • Why did Victorians turn to institutions to address social problems?
  • Did the architecture of the workhouse reinforce social control and surveillance?
  • Were workhouses there to punish or protect?
  • What were the characteristics of the workhouse population?