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Volunteers bring to life the world of the Victorian poor

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Volunteers bring to life the world of the Victorian poor

Anti-poor law poster. Cat. ref: HO44 27 part 2 (1)

Anti-poor law poster. Cat. ref: HO44 27 part 2 (1)

11 November 2008

Volunteers around England and Wales are embarking on an exciting project to unearth the often sad and gruesome world of the Victorian poor.

Led by The National Archives, the 'Living the Poor Life' project will involve more than 200 local and family historians in cataloguing memos, letters and reports held within the records of 22 Poor Law Unions.

Over the next 18 months the volunteers will catalogue more than 100,000 pages of documents dating from the mid-1830s to around 1850.

From the running of the workhouses, to tales of family breakdown, greed and corruption, these records provide a detailed snapshot of a key period in Britain's history.

The scanned records will be eventually be made available on The National Archives' website. Local and family historians will be able to search by name, place, date and event, providing a level of detail not found in any other records from this period.

'While the 19th century saw a huge growth in Britain's economy and industrial capacity, not everyone shared the material benefits,' says Dr Paul Carter, Principal Modern Records Specialist at The National Archives.

'These are the kind of records that will help researchers, whether a family historian or an academic, answer the question of what life was like for these people.'

The National Archives is funding the current work and is seeking additional funding to extend the project through to records from the early 1870s.

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