Doctors of the workhouse: a study of medical care in three poor law unions in South-East Kent, 1834 – 1875

Masters Thesis

Field, K. 2018. Doctors of the workhouse: a study of medical care in three poor law unions in South-East Kent, 1834 – 1875. Masters Thesis Canterbury Christ Church University Faculty of Arts and Humanities
AuthorsField, K.
TypeMasters Thesis
Qualification nameMA

This thesis looks at the medical care in three East Kent workhouses during the forty years following the introduction of the New Poor Law (1834) The New Poor Law Act considered the medical care of the poor.

Historians are divided into two camps on the quality of medical care provided for the poor by the New Poor Law. The first camp argues that through an increase in medical knowledge and medical professionalism and improved facilities in workhouses there was a steady improvement in medical care for the poor. The other camp argues that due to the lack of funds, understaffing government policy and making the workhouse as unwelcoming as possible, contributed to negligence being introduced into the system. Due to poor pay, the doctors were of low calibre, a fact known by the profession. The infirmaries were staffed by uncaring staff which led to the sick receiving low-quality experiences instead of being cherished by their loved ones at home.

This study will examine the effect of the new awareness of public health and the many changes that the Poor Law authorities asked the unions to make had on these three unions. Did they obey the orders and mandates sent out by the authorities? This question will be answered by examining the local Poor Law Union records of all three unions. These include the Guardians’ minutes which are accounts of the Guardians’ weekly meetings and report all proceedings of the unions. The thesis will also examine correspondences, complaints, scandals and communications from the Poor Law authorities to reveal what happened in all three unions. This study will show that in the first forty years of the New Poor Law in the three unions there was a steady improvement in the healthcare provided.

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Publication process dates
Deposited29 Mar 2019
Output statusUnpublished
Accepted author manuscript
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