Wage Labour and Poverty on a Dorset Estate, c. 1680-1834
Date: 28 September 2020
University of Exeter
PhD in History
This thesis examines the specific connections between wage labour and poverty in Dorset from c. 1680 to 1834. Although other parts of England experienced rapid industrialisation and increased employment opportunities during this period, Dorset remained primarily agricultural, characterised by increasing poverty amongst its population. ...
This thesis examines the specific connections between wage labour and poverty in Dorset from c. 1680 to 1834. Although other parts of England experienced rapid industrialisation and increased employment opportunities during this period, Dorset remained primarily agricultural, characterised by increasing poverty amongst its population. Chapter 2 examines the context of Dorset. Whereas many studies have focused on either wage labour or poverty separately, few have considered them together, and none have considered Dorset. A range of sources are used, all of which survive for Wimborne – the large parish in which Kingston Lacy estate, owned by the Bankes family, was located. Wage accounts enable a consideration of all workers on the estate for the periods 1694-1705, 1766-75 and 1817-28. It is possible to ascertain information on the number and gender of workers employed, the balance between different types of contract (day labouring, service, task-work and piece-work), the types of work undertaken and the wages paid. 160 settlement examinations survive for the town of Wimborne Minster from 1713-1835, demonstrating personal histories of employment and that lives of wage labour could leave individuals vulnerable to poverty and in need of relief in certain situations. Examinations were undertaken when people either applied for poor relief or were judged likely to apply in the future. Parish apprenticeships provide information on poverty and on steps taken by parishes to reduce expenditure on poor relief in the longer term. 194 parish apprenticeship indentures are preserved for Wimborne Minster dating from 1664-1827. Parish apprenticeships were for children who were either orphaned or whose parents were in need of poor relief and their intention was to ensure children were cared for and provided with some training, so they would become economically independent as adults. This thesis makes several original contributions to the existing literature. Firstly, it provides a detailed investigation of the strengths and weaknesses of each of the three types of sources used. Secondly, it provides examples of the numerous ways in which these documents can be analysed. Thirdly, it illuminates the nature of wage labour and poverty in Dorset in the long eighteenth century, contributing to our understanding of rural poverty in southern England preceding and during industrialisation.
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