How far do these sources confirm the view that the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act was cruel in its implementation?
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Sam James 8097 Walton High School Mr Corrigan How far do these sources confirm the view that the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act was cruel in its implementation? Sources 1, 2 and 5 go furthest in confirming the view that the poor law amendment act was cruel in its implementation. Source 1 written by Frederick Engels, strongly supports this view by showing evidence of cruelty to children, in the second paragraph. It states how 'a boy of five years old was punished by being shut in a dead room, where he had to sleep upon the lids of the coffins.' This being a very demoralising punishment for a child. A further example is given by Engels where he talks of an investigation revealing a nurse treating 'sufferers' who 'were tied fast with cords passed over the covering and under the bedstead, to save the nurse the trouble of sitting up at night.' Again this shows extreme cruelty under the poor law. This can be backed up by my own knowledge that there were various scandals such as the Andover Workhouse Scandal 1845-6, which showed extreme cases of cruelty.
The bread to be not less than 24 nor more than 48 hours old." This shows unnecessary cruelty as I would be possible for the bread to be eaten fresh. However contradicting this source 3 states 'Although the workhouse food be more ample in quantity and better quality than that of which the labourer's family partakes.' The evidence stated goes as far as to suggest the workhouse was poor and small in quantity, but not necessarily cruel as it was enough to survive. Source 2 also talks of oakum picking. Oakum picking was a common task in workhouses where workers would pick rope fibres from old tarred rope. This would lead to 'nails broken and fingers bleeding,' as stated on victorianengland.org. Nowadays this work could be seen as extremely brutal and cruel. However compared to some of the work and injuries obtained by the hard manual work that labourers did outside the workhouse, this type of work could be seen as mild in brutality. Maybe as source 6 suggest 'workhouses were depressing and life inside of them was monotonous.'
Cruelty is also evident in the sources 2 and 4 where segregation is shown. It was not necessary for the workhouse to enforce segregation in order to function properly, so therefore could be seen as cruel as it is separating families. However this again I feel was to make the workhouse seem a less desirable place to work as intended, as if it were desirable more of the able bodied poor would opt to work in the workhouse than find their own work. This is also the case I feel in the type of work conducted such as oakum picking. There is evidence of unnecessary cruelty such as that which happened in the Andover workhouse and as highlighted in source 1. However these 'scandals' are few and far between and are more to do with cruelty committed by individuals, than that created by the poor law as a whole. So this can not be generalised. On the whole I feel the implementation of the cruel law was not intentionally cruel, however was enforced in such a way to encourage the able bodied poor to look for work themselves. Word Count: 1129
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