Poor relief and the dangerous and criminal insane in Scotland, c.1740-1840

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The historiography of Scottish poor relief from the late sixteenth to the early nineteenth century conventionally portrays it as an undeveloped version of the English system. It assumes that the lack of structured care based on rating (that was the foundation of the English model) equates to parsimony. By focusing on limited entitlements and debates on disablement, historians have studied exclusion more than provision. This article gives a different emphasis on poor relief in Scotland through a study of a particular group of the deserving poor. Offering a general discussion illuminated by detailed case studies, its aim is to locate dangerous insane paupers within the structures of Scottish poor relief and to assess how distinctively they were treated compared with the merely poor. It also outlines change over time in the legal parameters governing pauper lunatics and particularly the changes in law and practice during the 1800s and 1810s. Finally, it seeks to demonstrate the strength of the commitment to caring for the insane as an element of the deserving poor and to show how a system based more on casual charity than that of England could nevertheless be effective.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)453-476
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Social History
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2006


  • LAW


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