Dr Joseph Harley, EHS Postan Fellow

Life in the English workhouse, c.1690-1834

Joe has recently finished his PhD at the University of Leicester. His research, supervised by Prof. Peter King and Prof. Roey Sweet, assessed the material lives of the English poor from c.1670-1834. The research focused on paupers who received outdoor relief and took a regional perspective through the analysis of several English counties with contrasting socio-economic characteristics. The thesis argued that the English poor were increasingly consuming a greater range and quantity of goods over the long eighteenth century and found that there were distinct regional differences in pauper ownership. Joe is also Editorial Assistant to Urban History journal, has taught at the University of Leicester and Loughborough University, and worked as a researcher on the Heritage Lottery Fund projects ‘Charnwood Roots’ and ‘How old is Cottesmore and how has it developed?’.

Joe’s postdoctoral work assesses the everyday lives of workhouse inmates during the long eighteenth century. Through the assessment of workhouse rules, regulations, food, material surroundings and admission/discharge from the workhouse, the research will assess holistically what life was like for inmates who lived in workhouses during the long eighteenth century. This will allow us to better understand the character of eighteenth-century social relations between the rich and poor, and the extent to which Victorian and Edwardian total institutions such as prisons and asylums were borne out of eighteenth-century workhouses.