School of History, Philosophy and Culture

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  • Irish Poor Law Project

    Welfare regimes under the Irish poor law 1850–1921

    Utilising a rich variety of qualitative and quantitative data, the project investigated the character, organisation and operation of the poor law in Ireland from the end of the Great Famine to the establishment of the Irish Free State. The aim was to trace national and regional patterns in the provision and distribution of relief, and to explore the role of economic, social and political factors in the formulation and execution of national and local relief policies.

    The first phase of the project was devoted to producing a database of poor law statistics for the whole of Ireland for the period 1850-1914 (detailed returns were not printed after this date). Using this data, a series of digital maps have been produced showing comparative levels of poor relief across Ireland in 1851, 1871, 1891 and 1911. The maps highlight regional and temporal trends in relief. They demonstrate that the poor law was far from uniform and that relief provision changed significantly over time.

    In order to contextualise the history of the Irish poor law within UK poor law history, three one-day workshops were organised at Oxford Brookes during the course of the project to bring together scholars of welfare history from the United Kingdom and Ireland.

    Access the Poor Law Project Maps  Access workshop papers

    In the final phase of the project an international conference on poverty and welfare in Ireland was held at Queen’s University Belfast in June 2009. This incorporated a symposium sponsored by the Royal Historical Society. Papers from the symposium have been published in Transactions of the Royal Historical Society (2010). An edited collection from the conference, Poverty and Welfare in Ireland 1838–1948, was published by Irish Academic Press in June 2011.

    The Irish Poor Law Project is directed by Professor Virginia Crossman and funded by the ESRC. The project ran from January 2007 to March 2010. It was supported by three research assistants: Dr Georgina Laragy and Dr Seán Lucey (Oxford Brookes University) and Dr Olwen Purdue (Queen’s University Belfast).