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Speenhamland poor relief system

Speenhamland poor relief system. Growth of population and acute distress during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars placed great strain upon the poor law system. In 1795 the price of bread, the labourer's staple diet, reached record levels. On 6 May 1795 the Speenhamland justices, meeting at the Pelican Inn (Berks.), resolved to give outdoor relief to families on a sliding scale in proportion to the cost of a loaf. The system was widely adopted but increasingly criticized as ruinously expensive, an invitation to farmers to pay low wages leaving the poor rate to make up the difference, and an encouragement to farm labourers to breed without restraint in order to get extra assistance. The Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 accordingly moved against the system in favour of indoor relief in workhouses.

J. A. Cannon

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