Barrett, John Wilson (2012) The Idle, Immoral and Profligate Poor: The condition of the poor and the ‘taint of pauperism’ in Huddersfield between 1834 and 1874, with particular reference to the ‘undeserving poor’. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

The purpose of this research is to examine the use of popular political language and its consequence on the poor, especially the undeserving poor. The study examines how, such ‘anti-pauper language’ affected social outcomes for the poor, and how certain authoritarian groups used language to remove the ‘taint’ of pauperism from the town of Huddersfield between 1834 and 1874.

Over the past forty years, the focus of urban history has tended to centre on the cultural processes and localised identities, leaving important questions concerning the context of poverty to be centred on the experiences of major British towns and cities. However, this thesis extends that form of research, by focusing on a town’s response to poverty and how language shaped the response of an emerging industrialised town. The thesis focuses on how Huddersfield managed these responses to poverty and how the town used language to try and halt the spread of pauperism throughout the town.

The study concentrates on the various uses of authoritarian language under the old Poor Law and how the same forms of language were reinterpreted after 1834, under the new Poor Law. It suggests that although the context of authority changed, the language remained the same and was used toward the same outcomes. Furthermore, this study witnesses how these various groups and organisations, used their authority to maintain social order and to enforce such behaviour amongst the deserving poor, whilst at the same time undermining the undeserving. This study assesses the uneasy alliance between these groups, whose aim and intention, was divided between helping the deserving poor and improving the image of the town, whilst at the same time, openly opposing and largely ignoring, the undeserving poor.

A recurring theme within this study surrounds the negative, often bigoted language, used against the Irish migrants who settled in the town in the late 1840s. By concentrating on the Irish, this study is able to suggest that they were a more ‘degenerate strand of the undeserving poor’ and therefore, they are used as a prime example of the kind of power and influence, language had over the poor.

This study illustrates the importance of language in a study on local responses to poverty and how, it is a way of articulating authority and shaping the way the undeserving poor were treated during the nineteenth-century in Huddersfield.

jwbarrettfinalthesis.pdf - Accepted Version

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