Joint project examining poverty throughout England and Wales in Victorian times awarded over £800,000

Posted by ap507 at Dec 14, 2017 11:00 AM |
University of Leicester historian working with The National Archives on project focusing on experiences of paupers in Victorian Britain

Issued by University of Leicester on 14 December 2017

The National Archives and the University of Leicester have been awarded a grant of £820,000 by the Arts and Humanities Research Council to undertake a three year research project examining poverty across England and Wales in Victorian times.

The project, In Their Own Write: Contesting the New Poor law 1834-1900 will begin in early 2018.

It will focus on the lived experiences of paupers and other poor people by sampling The National Archive’s collection of pauper letters which were bound into the collection of poor law union correspondence in records series MH 12

Professor Steven King, Professor of Economic and Social History from the University of Leicester’s School of History, Politics and International Relations, and the principal investigator for the project, said: “Our analysis of pauper letters will be driven by key questions centring on the degree to which paupers were agents in their own history and how they sought to negotiate welfare in a system to which they have previously been thought subject.”

Dr Paul Carter, The National Archives principle records specialist and co-investigator for the project said: “The hugely exciting aspect of this work is that the voice and experience of the pauper is put at the heart of the project. Nineteenth century paupers were not silent and the thousands of letters they wrote to the central poor law authorities are testament to this.”

The pauper archive collection is very detailed and provides the opportunity to examine past welfare from the standpoint of those who were on the receiving end of it.

The project will address questions such as how did the poor view the welfare they were offered and how effective were their complaints.


Notes to editors:

For more information contact Professor Steven King on 44 (0)116 229 7606 or email

About The National Archives


The National Archives looks after and makes available to the public its collection of historical records dating back more than 1,000 years, including records as diverse as Domesday Book and MI5 files. They are a world-leading cultural heritage organisation which promotes public accessibility to iconic documents such as Guy Fawkes’ confession, Shakespeare’s Will and Edward VIII’s letter of abdication, while ensuring preservation for generations to come. They also host talks, conferences and have a thriving education programme for schools and colleges. The National Archives is a non-ministerial government department whose parent is the department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). They are the official archive of the UK government, and England and Wales.

For more information about the project or to speak to Dr Paul Carter, please call 020 8392 5277 or email

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