In Their Own Write: The Testimony of the Victorian English and Welsh Poor

Years ago at TNA I was lucky to be able to attend a memourable talk by Paul Carter. So when I saw he was giving an online talk on Friday I made sure not to miss it.  He used letters to the Poor Law Commissioners in London, archived in series MH 12 at TNA, to illustrate paupers concerns of being denied any relief, the breakup of home and family, medical care, and workhouse conditions.

Paul pointed out that the study is only possible as all material, including incoming letters from the poor, were in bound volumes, otherwise the letters would likely have been discarded as ephemera — just as happened in Canada with letters in First World War military files.

The talk, and the equally informative question period, is to be made available on TNA’s website.

There’s another opportunity to hear Paul on the Victorian Poor: In Their Own Write: Punishing the Victorian Pauper Complainer, on Friday 13 August at 9 am ET. Book tickets at

Paul mentioned a forthcoming book, In Their Own Write, to be published by McGill-Queen’s University Press next year (with luck).

The following TNA research guides are of interest:

Poverty and Poor Laws:

Workhouse inmates and staff


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