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NTU academics win the 2022 NAVSA Book Prize

NTU's Professor Steven King, from the School of Arts and Humanities has been successful in winning a prestigious award from the North American Victorian Studies Association.

Professor King collaborated on In Their Own Write: Contesting the New Poor Law, 1834-1900, which has won the NAVSA Book Prize 2022.

This fascinating book looks into the nineteenth-century English and Welsh Poor Law from the point of view of the poor themselves.

Professor King collaborated with Paul Carter of the National Archives, Natalie Carter a visiting fellow at NTU, Peter Jones form the University of Glasgow, and Carol Beardmore at the Open University to highlight the voices of the poor from their letters and statements.

Here's what the judges have to say about this spectacular book:

"Pioneering a collaborative method that marshals the efforts of scores of volunteers, the authors of In Their Own Write transcribe and analyze a corpus of thousands of letters written by poor people and their allies to the British poor law authorities between 1834 and 1900. As Steven King, Paul Carter, Natalie Carter, Peter Jones, and Carol Beardmore demonstrate, this body of writing not only illuminates how the poor “experienced, contested, and navigated” nineteenth-century welfare provision but demands a fundamental rethinking of poor law policy and administrative practice. The voices of welfare recipients—often absent in studies of national debates about poverty—formed an integral part of an “interpretive community” that struggled over the terms of welfare in the years following the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act. What emerges is a picture of the New Poor Law, frequently taken as a revolution in government and social policy, as the beginning of a series of dynamic contests in which poor people at times succeeded in winning improvements to their conditions and the workhouse regime while putting pressure on local and national administrators to better respond to the needs of economically vulnerable people. These letters disclose various and shared experiences of the diverse populations that received government support, including children and the elderly, people with disabilities, women, and un- or under-employed male wage earners. By reconstructing the rhetorical arsenals of these groups, King, Carter, Carter, Jones, and Beardmore make clear that writing was very much “a weapon of the weak.” This history from below of the New Poor Law—and the corpus of letters it utilizes—insures that the voices of the poor will necessarily be part of future studies of social welfare, government administration and information management, disability, gender politics, and Victorian periodicals and media."

Steven King, Paul Carter, Natalie Carter, Peter Jones, and Carol Beardmore, In Their Own Write: Contesting the New Poor Law, 1834-1900 (McGill-Queen’s UP, 2022)

Steven King is Professor of Economic and Social History. His research spans the period from the early 1700s to the present and encompasses Britain and Europe.

Join Professor King's online seminar series — Workshop Lives IV

From riots to religion, join Professor King and a plethora of guest speakers to find out more about the lives of the poor in the Victorian workhouses.

Published on 14 September 2023
  • Subject area: English, history and philosophy
  • Category: Current students; Research; Staff; School of Arts and Humanities