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"Ground Honest in the Reform Mill": The Theory and Experience of Reformation in the Philanthropic Society and Refuge for the Destitute, c.1788-1830

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Title: "Ground Honest in the Reform Mill": The Theory and Experience of Reformation in the Philanthropic Society and Refuge for the Destitute, c.1788-1830
Author: Webber, Megan
Department: Department of History
Program: History
Advisor: James, KevinAndrew, Donna
Abstract: This thesis is an investigation of the Philanthropic Society (est. 1788) and Refuge for the Destitute (est. 1804), two subscription charities established to prevent crime and reform members of the “criminal underclass” in London, England. This thesis engages the perspectives of both benefactors and beneficiaries, arguing that beneficiaries (or “objects”) were not passive participants in the charitable exchange, but actively sought to manipulate the institutions’ systems to secure their own desires —desires which did not always align with those of their benefactors. The introductory chapter explores the social, economic, and political conditions which led benefactors to create the institutions and which informed their aims and methods. The first chapter examines the strategies used by objects to secure charitable aid on their own terms. The post-institutional conduct of beneficiaries is the focus of the final chapter. Despite the intensive reformatory regimen of the Philanthropic and Refuge, a significant proportion of beneficiaries —at least one third— refused to fulfill benefactors’ expectations that they become law-abiding, industrious, and pious citizens. From the day of their application to the institutions to long after their departure, objects’ actions were informed by their own expectations and desires.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10214/3944
Date: 2012-08


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