Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
The Politics of HungerProtest, Poverty and Policy in England, c. 1750-c. 1840$
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content.

Carl J. Griffin

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781526145628

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.7765/9781526145635

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM MANCHESTER SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.manchester.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Manchester University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in MSO for personal use.date: 17 September 2021

Measuring need: Speenhamland, hunger and universal pauperism

Measuring need: Speenhamland, hunger and universal pauperism

(p.85) 3 Measuring need: Speenhamland, hunger and universal pauperism
The Politics of Hunger

Carl J. Griffin

Manchester University Press

In May 1795 the Berkshire magistrates met in the small parish of Speenhamland to set a scale of ‘minimum incomes’’ by family composition and the price of bread. The effects of the decision are now notorious, not least part due to Malthus’ critique, the sociologists Fred Block and Margaret Somers suggesting the ‘shadow of Speenhamland’ looms large over our attempts to understand the workings of the English poor laws but also retains a haunting presence in welfare debates in the neo-liberal age. Yet the actual mechanisms and subsequent history of ‘bread scales’ remain little understood. This chapter remedies this imbalance, and in so doing argues that subsequent perversions of the initial intentions behind Speenhamland-type payments meant that all agrarian workers became pauperised, farmers mindful that the parish would supplement working incomes duly cut wages thereby making need, and thus the discourse of hunger, universal. This extension of relief, counter intuitively required new modes of surveillance to limit costs, parish officers essentially engaging in ‘means testing’ and otherwise excluding claimants on moral grounds. Hunger was now measured and quantified, the poor rendered as an undifferentiated body.

Keywords:   Speenhamland, Poor laws, Old poor law, Income support, Polanyi, Malthus, Poverty

Manchester Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.

Please, subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

To troubleshoot, please check our FAQs, and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us.