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Ambient religion - Poverty and social work

28 minutes
First broadcast:
Wednesday 29 February 2012

"poor mentality", "placidly bovine", "volubly unreachable", "feeble minded" - just some of the terms used by social workers as they tried to describe the poor in the 1920s and 30s. Much of their case work was given over to discussing whether the poor were deserving or whether they were making fraudulent claims on the charities and government organisations these new professionals were representing. Laurie is joined by Mark Peel, the author of a new study of social work and poverty in the United States, Australia and Britain, and they discuss which attitudes have changed and which remain the same with the historian Selina Todd.
Also, how evangelic Christians have turned their backs on fire and brimstone and are seeking to put the Bible into the background of everyday life. Matthew Engelke talks about his study of the Bible Society of England and Wales.
Producer: Charlie Taylor.

  • Dr Matthew Engelke

    Senior Lecturer in Anthropology at the London School of Economics and editor of the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

    Angels in Swindon: On the Production of Ambient Faith
    American Ethnologist
    Volume 39, Issue 1, pages 155–170, February 2012
    DOI: 10.1111/j.1548-1425.2011.01355.x

    Find out more about Matthew Engelke
  • Dr Selina Todd

    Lecturer in Modern British History and a Fellow of St Hilda's at Oxford University

    The People: A History of the British Working Class in the Twentieth Century (forthcoming, 2013)

    Find out more about Selina Todd
  • Mark Peel

    Professor of Modern Cultural and Social History at Liverpool University

    Miss Cutler and the Case of the Resurrected Horse: Social Work and the Story of Poverty in America, Australia, and Britain”
    Publisher: University of Chicago Press
    ISBN-10: 0226653633
    ISBN-13: 978-0226653631

    Find out more about Mark Peel
  • Thinking Allowed at RIBA

    A special edition of Thinking Allowed will be recorded at the Royal Institute of British Architects on Tuesday 13 March at 6.30pm - 8.00pm

    Laurie Taylor examines the concept of home and its relationship to housing with Angela Brady, President of RIBA; the housing economist Susan Smith, Mistress of Girton College Cambridge; sociologist Esther Dermott from Bristol University and the architectural writer Jonathan Glancey.

    The event draws on a series of investigations of listeners' homes in which Laurie Taylor and a team of sociologists have explored the future of private life. It will also reflect on the RIBA exhibition on the history of the British Home, 'A Place to Call Home'.

    The programme will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4's Thinking Allowed on 21 March 2012.

    Free, but advance booking essential.
    Booking: talks@riba.org|



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