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Northern boards of guardians were largely Protestant and unionist in religious and political outlook in contrast to their southern nationalist and Catholic counterparts. The temptation to portray sectarian discrimination that is, Protestant guardians refusing poorer Catholics outdoor relief as the sole factor in these lower northern levels is tempered. These insights are important for a wider understanding of relief practices.

Poor Relief and Welfare in Germany from the Reformation to World War I

In a European context, Lutheran and reformed Protestant northern European countries are viewed as having been more reliant on state relief systems; in contrast to southern Europe which provided more informal charitable relief, largely through Catholic religious authorities. The third chapter examines the place of relief in supporting families. While the first three chapters concentrate on trends in relief practices, the following six explore the political and social tensions and clashes that surrounded the poor law.

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In post-famine Ireland social, economic, demographic and political transformations occurred as the population contracted, the agricultural economy altered from a largely tillage to a pastoral one, and a general rise in living standards and expectations was brought about by a degree of economic prosperity. The period was also marked by heightened nationalist politics in the form of Fenianism in the s and Home Rule in the s.

By the s Irish society had become dominated by the Irish Land War, and an on-going political and agrarian agitation between Irish nationalist tenant farmers and their representatives and unionist landlords. The poor law, and in particular boards of guardians, became the focal point for political conflicts at a local level. Chapters four to seven examine the effect of these widespread transformations on the poor law, a process which the noted historian, W.

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Chapter four explores the role of politics in the era from to the outbreak of the Irish Land War in the late s. Chapters five, six and seven examine the role of the poor law during the Irish Land War, a period which witnessed the beginnings of a farmer proprietorship class as the most influential grouping in provincial Irish society, and the sidelining of Irish landlords. The politicisation of local boards of guardians during this period has received a degree of attention from Irish historians, most notably in the work of W.

Feingold and latterly by Virginia Crossman along with this reviewer. Cousins highlights how the serious economic distress of the period challenged the primacy of the workhouse in the system and how temporary legislation was introduced which allowed outdoor relief to the able-bodied in , and In turn, the numbers on outdoor relief grew greater than the number on indoor relief for the first time since the great famine. These measures, coupled with the wrestling of control of poor law boards from landlords by local nationalists, represented a significant transfer of power at a local level.

Chapter six turns to non-workhouse forms of relief in the form of outdoor relief and labourers cottages.

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During the post-famine period outdoor relief, which was not allowed to the able-bodied and entitlement largely restricted to the impotent poor, grew extensively. A number of historians have viewed this growth as a result of the emergence of nationalists on local boards of guardians who were more willing and eager to grant such relief than their unionist landlord counterparts. However, Cousins argues that other economic factors were centrally important in determining patterns in outdoor relief.

Such provision was often tied to the needs of local labour supply and the larger proportion of agricultural labourers in a poor law union, the higher the level of outdoor relief distributed. While these offer a number of new interpretations of the growth and role of outdoor relief, they could have been more substantiated by less reliance on statistics, and more extensive use of qualitative case studies for the first stage of the land war — Recently published research, which admittedly appeared after this monograph, demonstrates that heated political discussions concerning outdoor relief were a feature of board meetings in counties Kerry, Mayo and in Cork City during the s.

This wider work argues that outdoor relief was an important form of patronage for local middle-class nationalists challenging the social and political power of landlords during this period. Chapter seven continues to examine the importance of nationalist control over local poor law boards and examines whether such developments altered poor law practices.

Based on a combination of statistics and case studies, it is demonstrated that outdoor relief actually dropped in unions which were the focus of political and agrarian agitation. However, the Local Government Board did deal stringently with local boards of guardians which attempted to use poor relief for such purposes.

Of the five case studies provided, the Athy and New Ross boards were suspended and replaced by government-appointed paid officials, and two others, Portumna and Loughrea, were surcharged for the illegal use of poor relief, demonstrating that the poor law was an important front in tensions between the government and local nationalists during the Plan of Campaign. Chapter eight concentrates on the development of the poor law after the turbulent s. During the s the intense political activity within local boards of guardians was dissipated by the wider Parnellite schism in nationalism.


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Sporadic distress continued to affect the western seaboard, albeit at a lesser rate than earlier in the century, which was met by relief works, as opposed to the extension of outdoor relief. Significant transformations in the governance of the poor law emerged with the introduction of the Local Government Act. Along with establishing county and rural councils, the act removed ex-officio largely landlord guardians, ended plural voting rights based on property, and extended rating from the electoral division to the union.

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