The English New Poor Law, enacted in 1834, signaled a new era of welfare in England, shedding the paternalistic provision of aid that was characteristic of the Old Poor Law. Existing scholarship positions the New Poor Law as an important landmark in the capitalist development of the English economy. This paper analyzes the text of the Bastardy Clause of the New Poor Law––which overturned the existing bastardy laws and said that mothers of illegitimate children could no longer receive aid from the parish––and contextualizes it as a major rethinking of charity in 19th century England. The debate on the Bastardy Clause in the House of Commons demonstrates how English politicians perceived the issue of bastardy to be a moral, social, and economic evil. Ultimately, as this paper shows, by overturning the bastardy laws, the New Poor Law Commissioners and English politicians failed to address the root of the evil: poverty.
Serbin, Bianca M. (2022) "Bastardy and the New Poor Law: Redefining the Undeserving," Swarthmore Undergraduate History Journal: Vol. 3 : Iss. 1 , Article 7. https://works.swarthmore.edu/suhj/vol3/iss1/7