‘We work amongst the lowest stratum of life’
The early labour colonies
in Working men’s bodies
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Most of the earliest British labour colonies were opened by non-conformist churches. By far the largest was the Salvation Army colony at Hadleigh, which opened in 1891, and others followed in England and Scotland. In the aftermath of the Boer Wars, public opinion was concerned over the prospect of physical deterioration; preoccupations with national efficiency were intensified by the economic crises of the early years of the twentieth century. Following the passage of the Unemployed Workmen Act, a number of local authorities opened labour colonies. All of the early colonies were exclusively for men, and overwhelmingly were seen as a way of relieving unemployment. William Beveridge saw them as complementing labour exchanges and other reformed institutions. However, the municipal labour colony movement lost momentum by the time of the Royal Commission on the Poor Laws.

Working men’s bodies

Work camps in Britain, 1880–1940


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