Starting from Seebohm Rowntree’s groundbreaking 1899 study Poverty: A study of town life, the authors explore how the concept of ‘poverty’ changed over the twentieth century, how the causes of poverty a century ago compare with its causes today, and how key social and economic factors affected these changes.
The authors use evidence from studies over the century to examine how the ‘poverty line’, and the extent of poverty, has changed. Turning to poverty policy, the authors trace its evolution over the century. They look back to the origin of the Poor Law tradition, and the development of empirical investigation and of policy following Rowntree’s and Charles Booth’s studies. Exploring poverty policy throughout the century, their analysis includes the most recent developments and outcomes under Thatcher, Major and Blair.
The authors conclude by looking forward. Setting out where Britain stands now in international terms, they explore coming economic and demographic pressures, the constraints and aspirations of public attitudes, and what these will mean for policy-making.