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Welsh History Review


Vol. 10, nos. 1-4 1980-81

Before the welfare state, social administration in early industrial Britain : Book review.

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always on the periphery of north Wales society. In another sense, however,
they absorbed the culture of the host society (in Wales as in Hungary),
becoming great harpers, fiddlers and entertainers, and sometimes genteel
harpists in Victoria's reign. Before their discovery by Sampson they
were indeed mainly known as musicians, and much of the Welsh music
of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries survived amongst the Gypsies
when it was rejected or forgotten by a Welsh culture intent upon religion,
politics and respectability.
This careful and studious book does not try to play on the sentimental
memories of Gypsies that we have all inherited from childhood books.
But many of the Wood clan were in themselves romantic and fascinating
people, and there are some excellent photographs of some of them here,
and the Romany cannot fail to appeal to the imagination as persons,
informants and as a sociological phenomenon. This book has the added
advantage of having been written 'from the inside', since Eldra Jarman
is a descendant of Abram Wood, and it is one of the most interesting
and unusual history books to be written in Welsh for some years. It is
a pity that the present Romany language movement, the Romani Chib
which is the subject of Grattan Puxon's article in Planet, has come too
late for the clan of Abram Wood.
BRITAIN. By Ursula R. Q. Henriques. Longman, London, 1979. Pp. 294.
£ 8.50.
Discerning readers of the journals over the years have learned to
treasure Ursula Henriques's talent for illuminating dark corners in the
history of early-nineteenth-century social administration. Her dissection
of the career of James Stuart of Dunearm provided a valuable corrective
for those tempted to think that Leonard Horner was typical of the early
factory inspectorate, and her examination of the hitherto neglected
bastardy clauses of the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 was a model
of that serious research into the history of early-Victorian womenfolk
that has been so much neglected by recent writers interested in the history
of one half of the human race, as William Thompson called them.
Now Miss Henriques has sought to synthesise a great deal of scattered,
detailed work, including much in unpublished postgraduate theses,
in five major fields of administration in early industrial Britain: the poor
law, public health, prison administration, factory regulation and elemen-
tary education. In a series which has so far proved of uneven value to
students, partly because authors have been asked to cover themes over
such extended periods of time that the treatment has been inevitably
somewhat superficial, Ursula Henriques's book benefits from concentra-
tion on a relatively limited time-span-basically the first half of the
nineteenth century-and from detailed handling of a limited number of
topics. Her basic theme traces the manner in which accumulating or
novel social problems which had hitherto been dealt with, if at all, by
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