Preindustrial welfare between regional economies and local regimes: Rural poor relief in Flanders around 1800

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Abstract

This study uses data on income and distribution of relief payments from local poor relief tables for 512 rural parishes in Flanders (present-day Belgium) in 1807 to examine spatial variation in poor relief practices in a region characterised by well-established local poor relief institutions and marked socio-economic differences. By combining data on poor relief with local data on population, landholding and occupational structure, we map out the relative importance of regional economies and local variation in producing distinct poor relief regimes. The results show that although local variation was considerable, the nature and extent of this variation interacted with structural socio-economic characteristics to produce regional patterns, signalling that local variation did not so much contradict as constitute regional patterns in poor relief regimes. The importance of socio-economic characteristics in determining both regional patterns and local variation supports our more general contention that local and regional levels of analysis represent a more fruitful avenue for understanding variations in poor relief practices than national differences in legislation, and therefore has implications for the comparative study of poor relief practices in a wider international context.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)255-284
Number of pages30
JournalContinuity and Change
Volume33
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2018

Keywords

  • History of social policy

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