Between a Rock and a Hard Place. THe Poor Law Commission's Migration scheme, 1835-37

Park, Peter Brian (2008) Between a Rock and a Hard Place. THe Poor Law Commission's Migration scheme, 1835-37. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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Between January 1835 and June 1837 over 500 families, comprised of more than 5,000
individuals, moved from the agricultural counties of southern and eastern England to the
manufacturing districts of the north. Their migration was carried out under the auspices
of the Poor Law Commission's home migration scheme (one of the first attempts at
social engineering by a modem British government agency), but approximately the
same numbers followed them independently. The research described investigates the
aspirations of several of the principal stakeholders and compares them with the
outcomes of the scheme, to establish whether it was a success.

A few families failed and returned home fairly quickly, but over seventy percent of
those that migrated considered themselves better off than their kin in the south and
chose to remain in the manufacturing districts. Indeed, acting primarily on their advice,
an equal number of their kith and kin had followed them independently. For these
families the scheme may be considered a success.

One of the two migration agents seems to have derived no benefit from his association
with the scheme other than the immediate financial rewards. The other benefitted by his
promotion to assistant poor law commissioner in the short term; in the longer term
contacts that he undoubtedly made while serving in Ireland in that capacity provided
clients for his business when he returned to England.

Comparison of the poor-rates in the migrants' home parishes before and after the
scheme shows that the rates of the scheme parishes decreased, but to no greater extent
than parishes where the scheme did not operate thus the decreases were due to factors
other than the scheme and parishes did not benefit from it.

The migrants were generally well received by the indigenous population in the north,
the few cases where there was local dissent over their arrival appear to have arisen as a
result of poor industrial relations between the employers and the local workforce.

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