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The Place of the Pauper: A Historical Archaeology of West Yorkshire Workhouses 1834-1930

Newman, Charlotte Jane (2010) The Place of the Pauper: A Historical Archaeology of West Yorkshire Workhouses 1834-1930. PhD thesis, University of York.

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Abstract

To date, there has been little attempt to address the archaeological evidence of the New Poor Law (NPL). The continuing use and frequent adaptation of workhouse buildings over nearly 200 years attests to the complexity of the institution’s history. This research addresses a significant gap in the study of workhouses by offering an interdisciplinary approach, challenging national typologies that provide synthesis at the expense of subtle but important differences between workhouses. This thesis suggests that West Yorkshire NPL Unions’ attitudes towards pauperism and resultant architectural choices were largely influenced by regional contexts. It combines an archaeological study of workhouse architecture (focusing on location, plan, and style) with documentary evidence, using the workhouse as a lens through which to examine changing attitudes toward poverty and varying experiences of the workhouse by inmates, staff, and administrators over the course of the NPL. West Yorkshire workhouse inmates were classified on the basis of age, gender, and able-bodiedness. Segregation, surveillance, and specialisation were variably implemented to promote care and/or control. As a result, workhouse inmates had dramatically different experiences of the NPL depending on their classifications, locations, and the years in which they were admitted. In its use of the built form to understand human experience, this thesis reflects the contemporary emphasis in post-medieval buildings archaeology on interdisciplinarity and the related shift in scholarship from description to interpretation. Ultimately, its multifaceted approach to the workhouse reveals how workhouse architecture reflected and sometimes contradicted contemporaneous attitudes toward poverty, structuring—but not defining—a pauper’s identity.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: poverty, workhouse, archaeology, history, architecture, new poor law
Academic Units: The University of York > Archaeology (York)
Depositing User: Miss Charlotte Jane Newman
Date Deposited: 13 Jan 2012 09:41
Last Modified: 08 Aug 2013 08:46
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/1402

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