British Welfare State

British Welfare State

  • Submitted By: pedalotto
  • Date Submitted: 01/24/2009 4:44 PM
  • Category: English
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Bernard Harris, _The Origins of the British Welfare State: Social
Welfare in England and Wales, 1800-1945_. Basingstoke, Hampshire:
Palgrave Macmillan, 2004. xii + 402 pp. $26.95 (paperback), ISBN:

Reviewed for EH.NET by Mary MacKinnon, Department of Economics,
McGill University.

Bernard Harris, who is Reader in Social Policy at the University of
Southampton, aims to combine a description and explanation of the
development of government-run welfare provisions with a similar
discussion of the roles of voluntary and informal means of support.
Studies of the British welfare state range from sweeping statements
about capitalism, industrialism, and democracy to research on death
rates from particular diseases or of daily life in a workhouse. An
attempt to synthesize such a wide-ranging and often contradictory
literature is both ambitious and commendable.

_The Origins of the British Welfare State_ has two introductory
chapters that survey the (vast) historiography and summarize some of
the main approaches previous researchers have developed or adopted
(nine groupings are set out in Chapter 2). The next sixteen chapters
(almost 280 pages) survey a wide variety of formal and informal
institutions, with some discussion of other aspects of the economic,
political, and social history of Britain. Chapters are divided into
several subsections, with a brief introduction and conclusion for
each chapter. Chapters 3 to 11 focus on the period up to 1914, with
chapters devoted to the Poor Law, charity, self-help and mutual aid,
medicine, public health, housing, education, and the Liberal welfare
reforms. Chapters 12 to 17 deal with 1914-39. There are chapters on
the effects of the war on social policy, charity, unemployment,
health, housing, and education. The last chapter mainly discusses the
impact of the Second World War, with the final...

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