Pawnbroking and the survival strategies of the urban poor in 1770s York
in The poor in England 1700–1850

This chapter looks at public perceptions of pawnbrokers and their likely clientele from contemporary printed sources. It presents a brief overview of George Fettes's career as a pawnbroker in York. A simple statistical breakdown and analysis of the rich source sheds new light on the place of pawnbroking in the lives and strategies of the urban poor. The chapter also presents a detailed consideration of strategies used by customers to exploit pawnshop credit. The role of the pawnshop in the process of either independent survival or decline into dependency can be charted, particularly in the case of individuals who went on to receive parish relief. The chapter finally provides a study of the income derived from both pawning and parishes by selected individuals, which gives some indication of the scale and function of the assistance offered by each.

The poor in England 1700–1850

An economy of makeshifts

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