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Alannah Tomkins

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.

in The poor in England 1700–1850
An economy of makeshifts

This book investigates the experience of English poverty between 1700 and 1900 and the ways in which the poor made ends meet. It represents the single most significant attempt in print to supply the English 'economy of makeshifts' with a solid, empirical basis and to advance the concept of makeshifts to a precise delineation. The book attempts to explain how and when the poor secured access to these makeshifts and suggest how the balance of these strategies might change over time or be modified by gender, life-cycle and geography. It begins with the general and particular ways in which 'makeshifts' might be constructed, examining the rural agricultural poor and the shifting hierarchy of 'Fuel, dole and bread'. The book confirms the paltry allowances awarded through the poor law and implicitly contrasts them with the relatively generous schemes operated by individual and institutionalised charities such as the Quakers in Lancashire rural communities. Voluntary charity in the makeshift economy is discussed in the context of cultural implications of incorporating charity within survival strategies. The book then tackles the complicated relationship between poverty and social crime by looking at both contemporary published opinion and the evidence of the courts. A survey of pamphlet literature touching on credit, debt and pawnbroking reveals that outspoken, damning criticisms of pawnbrokers were often repeated but rarely qualified by any consideration of the cash flow exigencies of poverty. Finally a micro-study of the Lancashire township of Cowpe illustrates both the quantity and complexity of the makeshift economy.

Open Access (free)
Steven King and Alannah Tomkins

This conclusion presents some closing thoughts on concepts discussed in the preceding chapters of this book. The book begins with the observation that English welfare historians have developed an increasingly sophisticated theoretical framework with which they analyse the economy of makeshifts. It suggests that the texture of encounters between those applying for charity invite us to step beyond the material aspects of the economy of makeshifts to locate and interpret the 'cultural imperatives' that wound through the makeshift economy. The book presents the analysis of pawning practices that opens up in a unique way a much neglected strand of the makeshift economy for urban dwellers in particular. It focuses on the 'economy of diversified resources', though with charity, work and poor relief at its heart. The process of obtaining access to poor law resources was contested, as several of our contributors have pointed out.

in The poor in England 1700–1850
Open Access (free)
Alannah Tomkins and Steven King

This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book represents the single most significant attempt in print to supply the English 'economy of makeshifts' with a solid, empirical basis. It also represents the attempt in print to advance the concept of makeshifts from a rather woolly label to a more precise delineation. The chapter then provides the records of the Welsh charity school in London to exemplify both the benefits and the meanings drawn from charity by recipients. The book suggests that kinship and social credit were deemed by contemporaries to be important elements in their makeshift economies. It unravels the material and cultural implications of incorporating charity within survival strategies. The book tackles the complicated relationship between poverty and social crime in the capital by looking at both contemporary published opinion and the evidence of the courts.

in The poor in England 1700–1850