How poverty affected Britain in the late 1800s

Causes of poverty

Poverty was caused by many factors in the 1800s:

  • unemployment – families had no means of support
  • large families – many children had to be catered for
  • death of main ‘bread-winner’ – no one to make money
  • disability/injury at work – loss of earnings through inability to work
  • illness – those off work due to illness would not be paid and had the added costs of medical consultation and treatment
  • old age – no income received if not working
  • no national social security system to protect people against the worst effects of sickness and unemployment
Dinner time at the workhouse
Dinner time at the workhouse

The poor of Britain received little help from the government in the 1800s. The Poor Law of 1834 provided two types of help:

  • indoor relief – the workhouse, which was greatly feared
  • outdoor relief – food and money given to those at home, but which carried great social stigma

However, many problems still needed to be tackled and the government was reluctant to get involved.