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Critically discuss the resources available to those 'at risk' of poverty in Clitheroe's cotton famine

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Critically discuss the resources available to those 'at risk' of poverty in Clitheroe's cotton famine In 1860 Lancashire cotton district was at its peak, by 1861 it was fast collapsing as was the economy and people's welfare, surrounding it. The American Civil War in 1861 not only created dire consequences for American civilians and over four million slaves, but the North blockaded the southern ports preventing mills from receiving raw cotton supplies. Mills imported cotton from other countries but social factors, such as the peasant economy in India, equated in supplies being slow and inefficient. By Autumn of 1861 prices for cotton had soured and mills were closed or merely opened part time. Lancashire was thrown into a state of poverty and distress. One town in particular, Clitheroe, saw its economy dramatically collapse from the previous peak of prosperity in 1860 dragging down with it the personal finances, and livelihoods, of its cotton labourers making up almost 40% of the town. These labourers were temporarily, possibly permanently, unemployed, at risk of poverty, susceptible to peasantry. As a poor town Clitheroe was at first ignored whilst larger Towns such as Blackburn and Darwin were almost immediately provided with relief and observational attention A new Poor Law Act had been passed in 1852 called 'the Outdoor Regulation Order' stating labour tests should be undertaken by able-bodied men enabling them to work in return for outdoor relief, the Clitheroe board of Guardians objected to this. ...read more.


A Clitheroe Relief committee was then formed on 9 October 1862 which was relieving its peak of 1206 people the following January. This committee was a mirror of Victorian philanthropy; it was not undertaken by a genuine concern but through concerns of how the 'public' perceived the clergy, well-to-do businessmen and the richer in society. Large donations were often published in the newspaper. Those 'at risk' in Clitheroe needed the guidance of relief committees; it was also important they kept their pride and did not allow themselves to be reduced to pauperism. Clitheroe Relief encouraged this, they were concerned the weavers would become idle, remaining on relief for a prolonged length of time. For this reason the Relief Committee, however generous their donations had been, would pay out an average of a third of what the workers were used to receiving. Families received charity in kind such as tickets for shopkeepers, clothing and food. To further dissuade idleness relief was dropped to 2s per head in December 1862. In the Victorian times people who had become pauperised were seen as 'moral failures', the weavers unemployment was out of their control thus although there were not originally perceived as failures they has to work hard to keep their name and resume their class higher than those who had dropped to pauperism. The Clitheroe Relief intently watched them, almost waiting for their failure, enabling to seize their relief from them. They filled in relief forms that were thoroughly investigated for fraudulent claims. ...read more.


Those 'at risk' of poverty were predominantly those employed by the mills and by 1862 they were no longer at risk but experiencing different levels of poverty. The levels of their poverty were mainly dependent on family savings. Although a loss of profit occurred the mills had little effect during the famine and the majority who offered paternalistic help to their employers did so so that their mills could resume mass production as soon as the famine was over. The weavers, those truly at risk in the cotton famine in Clitheroe, were constantly under pressure by the Clitheroe relief, (a philanthropic charity formed purely for their own image and not a genuine desire to nurture their hard done by society), when they could do very little to help themselves except sell any saleable valuable in their home and drain their savings. Both of which occurred leaving them destitute and depressed. The main resource which failed Clitheroe to the greatest extent was the Board of Guardians who did far too little far too late to aid the weavers. They had little regard for the weavers as people but wanted to dismiss the 'problem'. When placing some of the males into Outdoor Labouring the men were thoroughly distraught and angered, as their hands and feet became that of labourers, unfit for return to the mills. An overriding factor of the Clitheroe cotton famine is that the people of Clitheroe did retain their pride, no violent riots occurred, they remained self-sufficient until the last moment and no health epidemics or incredulous death rises occurred, "Clitheroe are proud folk, and many of 'em 'll clam before they'll deign to come to us for relief;". ...read more.

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