“His Innocent Subjects”: A Historical Exploration of the ‘Deserving’ and ‘Undeserving Poor’

Monday 29 January, 6 – 7.30pm | Online, free

Join us to consider the historical roots and contemporary impact of a dichotomy that continues to shape narratives and policy around poverty.

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In a speech made to the Duke of Bedford at the first meeting of the Foundling Hospital governors in 1739, Thomas Coram spoke of his ambition to protect the “innocent subjects” of King George III. The language used to refer to those in need has fluctuated, but continues to reveal important facts about how societies past and present have conceptualized themselves and the systems of wealth and welfare they create.

The dichotomy of the ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving poor’ can be traced back centuries, but still carries considerable weight in the popular perceptions and political narratives that surround socio-economic need. Please join us and our panel of speakers to examine how our understanding of poverty and need has evolved, or not, since the time of Thomas Coram, and the impact this has on the contemporary world.

We are delighted that the following speakers will be joining us for this free event:

  • Polly Toynbee, Guardian political and social commentator, is former BBC Social Affairs Editor. Her books include ‘Hard Work: Life in Low-pay Britain’, ‘The Verdict’, on the Labour government and ‘The Lost Decade’ on the current government. Her latest book is ‘An Uneasy Inheritance: My Family and Other Radicals.’
  • Professor Harriet Ward CBE is an Honorary Research Fellow at the Rees Centre, University of Oxford. She is also Emeritus Professor of Child and Family Research at Loughborough University, focusing her research on the relationship between the state and the family, both now and in the past.