PGR Poster Conference 2015

Poster Presentation 2015 small

A whole year has gone by since the last PGR poster conference and I am not sure how much I have to show.  These conferences only work if postgraduate research students are willing to showcase their work, so it is important to take part.  Winning a prize is not that important (biting my knuckle here) and I really don’t mind if no-one comes and asks questions (biting the other knuckle).

This year, I decided to show some of the documents that show the peremptory way in which the poor were dealt with.  The rubber stamps, of course, were not used at the time, but have been added for emphasis.

In E.P. Thompson’s preface to his influential work The Making of the English Working Class (London : Victor Gollancz, 1963) he wrote “I am seeking to rescue the poor stockinger, the Luddite cropper, the “obsolete” hand-loom weaver, the “utopian” artisan, and even the deluded follower of Joanna Southcott, from the enormous condescension of posterity” (p.12).  To his list, I have added the poor of the Cleobury Mortimer Union.

The phrase ‘from the enormous condescension of posterity’ has a powerful ring to it.  In developing my thesis, I hope to be able to bring to life, or at least have remembered, some of the individuals who, often through no fault of their own, applied for relief from the parish.  Some were successful, some were not – and the reasons for either decision are rarely known.

Reading the few words that are written in each case,I was reminded of  Gray’s line in Elegy written in a Country Churchyard: ‘the short and simple annals of the poor’.  These letters, minutes, account entries and other documents are exactly that – all that remains of individual lives.  In the majority of cases, we do not know who they were.  There are no reliable birth, marriage or death records.  We don’t know how they lived or how they occupied themselves.  In most cases their graves lie unmarked.

But, we can try to relate what it was like to have been part of the ‘system’ in the Cleobury Mortimer area.  And in doing so, we can shed light on a little researched place, as well as draw many parallels with today.

[No prizes, but lots of interested and interesting visitors asking questions.]

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