History at Leicester

Sickness poverty and medical relief in England 1750-1850

Wellcome Trust Research Grant (£166,595)

December 2009 - June 2012

Professor Steve King

This project explores the definition, scale and treatment of sickness amongst the dependent poor between the 1750s and 1850s. Using overseer accounts, pauper letters and a variety of ancillary documents for more than 20 English counties, initial findings from the project suggest that sickness was a more common cause of relief applications than has often been thought and that being ill constituted one of the key experiences allowing paupers to exercise agency over the amount, form and duration of relief. Officials were surprisingly generous in their treatment of the sick poor and the poor came to equate sickness with an absolute entitlement to relief. The project ends in June 2012.

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