By Thomas Mackay
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print Publication Year:2009
Online Publication Date:August 2010
Original Publication Year:1889
Subjects: Social and population history
In 1889, British wine merchant Thomas Mackay published The English Poor, which espoused the ideas of Darwin and applied them to British social and economic history. An acolyte of social Darwinist Herbert Spencer, Mackay writes that human history has been a struggle between individualism and socialism, and argues that only through individual competition (not state social support) will poverty be eradicated. The opening chapters discuss the human instinct for property accumulation, primitive forms of society, elite control of workers during the plague years, and the growth of the proletariat. Later chapters discuss social legislation, the evolution of England's poor laws, and the Industrial Revolution. Finally, Mackay debates the scholarship of socialist Ernest Belfort Bax, bemoans the misguided ideas of Christian charity, and argues that the lives of 'lower types' of people have been prolonged by the poor laws. This is a fascinating document of late-Victorian economic thought.