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Poor relief before the Welfare State: Britain versus the Continent, 1780 1880


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  • Lindert, Peter H.


An eclectic array of quantitative data sketches public and private poor relief in the century before 1880, and invites new interpretations. Church and secular charity was meagre in the eighteenth century, and probably earlier. While richer countries transferred a higher share of national income to the poor than did poorer countries, the trend in this share failed to march upward with income across the nineteenth century. Some explanations are proposed for the differences between countries and the decline in poor relief s share of national income in England-Wales and the Low Countries before 1880. It may be that the newly franchised had stronger reasons to oppose tax-based relief than the elites who had voice at the start of the century. Changes in voice partly explain the movements of English poor relief over time and space. So do movements in the chances that the disenfranchised would exit from cooperating and supplying labour.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Cambridge University Press in its journal European Review of Economic History.

Volume (Year): 2 (1998)
Issue (Month): 02 (August)
Pages: 101-140

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Handle: RePEc:cup:ereveh:v:2:y:1998:i:02:p:101-140_00

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Cited by:
  1. Michael Huberman & Wayne Lewchuk, 2002. "European Economic Integration and the Labour Compact, 1850-1913," CIRANO Working Papers 2002s-34, CIRANO.
  2. Nina Boberg-Fazlic & Paul Sharp, 2013. "Does Welfare Spending Crowd Out Charitable Activity? Evidence from Historical England under the Poor Laws," Working Papers 0049, European Historical Economics Society (EHES).
  3. Jeffrey G. Williamson, 2003. "Was It Stolper-Samuelson, Infant Industry or Something Else? World Trade Tariffs 1789-1938," NBER Working Papers 9656, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.


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