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The Origins of the British Welfare State Society, State and Social Welfare in England and Wales, 1800-1945 by Bernard Harris

The Origins of the British Welfare State Society, State and Social Welfare in England and Wales, 1800-1945


The Origins of the British Welfare State Society, State and Social Welfare in England and Wales, 1800-1945 by Bernard Harris

Over the last 200 years Britain has witnessed profound changes in the nature and extent of state welfare. Drawing on the latest historical and social science research The Origins of the British Welfare State looks at the main developments in the history of social welfare provision in this period. It looks at the nature of problems facing British society in the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries and shows how these provided the foundation for the growth of both statutory and welfare provision in the areas of health, housing, education and the relief of poverty. It also examines the role played by the Liberal government of 1906-14 in reshaping the boundaries of public welfare provision and shows how the momentous changes associated with the First and Second World Wars paved the way for the creation of the 'classic' welfare state after 1945. This comprehensive and broad-ranging yet accessible account encourages the reader to question the 'inevitability' of present-day arrangements and provides an important framework for comparative analysis. It will be essential reading for all concerned with social policy, British social history and public policy.


'An important and very accessible addition to the range of literature exploring the foundations and development of the welfare state in Britain is Bernard Harris's The Origins of the British Welfare State. As well as providing a comprehensive analysis of welfare state developments, this text also explores the various historical approaches to studying welfare (its historiography)...[It]is a particularly useful and very readable account of the establishment and development of the welfare state in the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries.' - Introducing Social Policy, Cliff Alcock, Guy Daly and Edwin Griggs (London: Pearson Longman, 2008) 'Overall, this is a first-rate study of the period in question. Harris has succeeded in providing a highly informative and engaging review of the development of the welfare state. There is no doubt that it will quickly find its way on to the bookshelves of students and scholars in history, social policy and related areas.' - Robert Page, Health and Social Care in the Community, vol. 13, no. 4, pp. 394-5 'This book...provides both a comprehensive introduction to welfare policy and one further reason why the temptation to write medical history as if it were an academic ghetto can be resisted.' - Rodney Lowe, Medical History 'Bernard Harris has provided us with a welcome, well-written and well-researched, and much-needed new history of social welfare in England and Wales. The book...should become a standard text for students of both social history and social policy.' - John Stewart, Reader in the Department of History, Oxford Brookes University, UK'

About the Author

BERNARD HARRIS is Professor of Social Policy at the University of Strathclyde, UK.

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Book Info

Publication date

27th May 2004


Bernard Harris

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Palgrave Macmillan


402 pages


Social welfare & social services
History: specific events & topics



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