Negotiating medical welfare
in Sickness, medical welfare and the English poor, 1750–1834
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This chapter foregrounds the concept of pauper agency. Using the largest corpus of letters by or about the poor ever assembled, it argues that sickness was the core business of the Old Poor Law by the early nineteenth century. Rather than paupers being simply subject to the whim and treatment of the parish, the chapter argues that they had considerable agency. Despite problems of moral hazard and the idea that sickness could be faked, paupers and officials agreed that ill health and its treatment was an area of acceptable contestation.

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