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The Old Poor Law in Scotland

The Experience of Poverty, 1574-1845

Rosalind Mitchison

Paperback (Printed to Order)

Based entirely on research from primary sources, this book describes the development of the Scottish Poor Law as an instrument for the preservation of the old and destitute and, partially, as a protection against famine. It shows the effect of the Poor Law of the later Eighteenth Century agrarian reorganisation, the industrial revolution, Scottish urban development and the evangelical revival. This remarkably comprehensive investigation contains many revelations about the nature of Scottish social life over three centuries.

  • Covers the whole life of the Poor Law in Scotland
  • Based entirely on pioneering research of parish records and a wide range of other records
  • Contains numerous revelations about the nature of Scottish society over three centuries


A richly detailed, varied study of the experience of poverty in Scotland from 1574 to 1845."
A useful text on Scottish society and the lives of the poor in a relatively under-researched area of Scottish history … it will undoubtedly remain a key reference for future scholars.
Rosalind Mitchison's book on the Scottish poor law is the first to cover the period from the first Scottish enactment on the poor laws, to the establishment of a formal system in 1845 ... The Old Poor Law in Scotland will prove valuable to historians of poor relief and social welfare in general, because it raises many issues prevalent in both nineteenth century social reform and today.
Mitichison provides a convincing description, based on parochial records, of both the administration and effectiveness of the old Scottish Poor Law... An excellent book, for upper-division undergraduates and above.
- C. L. Hamilton, formerly, Simon Fraser University, Choice
Recent debates about "welfare reform" and related issues on both sides of the Atlantic give this book a timeliness not shared by all monographs on pre-industrial Scotland.
Mitchison's researches provide vivid details
- Pauline Croft