Richard Smith
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Social security as a developmental institution?
The relative efficacy of poor relief provisions under the English Old Poor Law
in History, historians and development policy

One of economic and social institutions attracting great interest is the role of the precocious 'Old Poor Law', a national social security system deemed by act of parliament to operate throughout England in 1601. Peter Solar made a claim that, when comparisons are made between English poor relief and other systems of poverty alleviation to be found in most other areas of pre-industrial Europe, levels of English poor relief exceeded those provided elsewhere. This chapter attempts to develop some of Solar's arguments and to confront some of the criticisms made against Solar's case. It is concerned with the issue of welfare entitlements and discriminations in relation to parochial residence and particular notions of citizenship that flow from this membership or association. The chapter aims to extend Solar's observations about the centrality of the agrarian underpinnings of revenue generation for welfare provisioning, in rural and urban industrial regions.

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