Throughout history governments have had to confront the problem of how to deal with the poorer parts of their population.
During the medieval and early modern period this responsibility was largely borne by religious institutions, civic institutions and individual charity.
By the eighteenth century, however, the rapid social and economic changes brought about by industrialisation put these systems under intolerable strain, forcing radical new solutions to be sought to address both old and new problems of health care and poor relief. This volume looks at how northern European governments of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries coped with the needs of the poor, whilst balancing any new measures against the perceived negative effects of relief upon the moral wellbeing of the poor and issues of social stability. Taken together, the essays in this volume chart the varying responses of states, social classes and political theorists towards the great social and economic issue of the age, industrialisation. Its demands and effects undermined the capacity of the old poor relief arrangements to look after those people that the fits and starts of the industrialisation cycle itself turned into paupers. The result was a response that replaced the traditional principle of 'outdoor' relief, with a generally repressive system of 'indoor' relief that lasted until the rise of organised labour forced a more benign approach to the problems of poverty. Although complete in itself, this volume also forms the third of a four-volume survey of health care and poor relief provision between 1500 and 1900, edited by Ole Peter Grell and Andrew Cunningham.