The Impact of Poverty and Famine in 19th Century Europe
The 19th century was marked by a growing population and a significant transformation in European agriculture. The influx of industrial growth led to poverty among the urban poor, which prompted the creation of centralized systems such as Russia’s Imperial Philanthropic Society and the localized system in Europe. With the urban poor being left vulnerable by the rural-oriented systems, Britain introduced the New Poor Law in 1834. The law aimed to push the able-bodied poor into work by abolishing poor relief, forcing them to look for support in harsh workhouses. Famine and poverty also had significant impacts on Europe, with the Irish Potato Famine in the late 1840s being the worst of all European famines in the 19th century.
Table of Contents
- Centralized and Localized Poor Relief Systems in Europe
- The Introduction of the New Poor Law in Britain
- The Impact of the New Poor Law on Society
- The Emergence of Utilitarianism in Germany
- The Introduction of New Crops and the Potato Revolts
- The Irish Potato Famine and its Aftermath
- Famine in Other European Countries
Centralized and Localized Poor Relief Systems in Europe
Q: What were the distinct features of the poor relief system in Russia?
A: The poor relief system in Russia was centralized, with beggars either sent to the Imperial Philanthropic Society or referred to employers.
Q: What were the features of the poor relief system in most parts of Europe?
A: In most parts of Europe, poor relief was localized, with local administrations responsible for registering paupers and providing them with food, clothes, and shelter.
Q: How did poverty impact the urban poor in Europe?
A: Poverty among the growing urban poor in Europe left them vulnerable, with most relief systems designed to help the rural poor.
The Introduction of the New Poor Law in Britain
Q: What was the aim of the New Poor Law introduced in Britain?
A: The New Poor Law aimed to push the able-bodied poor into work by abolishing poor relief, forcing them to look for support in harsh workhouses.
Q: When was the New Poor Law introduced in Britain?
A: The New Poor Law was introduced in Britain in 1834.
The Impact of the New Poor Law on Society
Q: What was the public’s reaction to the New Poor Law?
A: The New Poor Law faced widespread criticism for its separation of husbands and wives in the workhouse, subjecting orphans, the sick, and the elderly to harsh discipline, and its potential for corruption.
Q: Did the New Poor Law completely abolish poor relief?
A: Although outdoor relief was abolished, cases of outdoor relief continued, with more than 170,000 paupers still receiving it in 1849, as against 28,000 ‘able-bodied’ adult inmates of the workhouses.
The Emergence of Utilitarianism in Germany
Q: How did utilitarianism spread in Germany?
A: The harsh spirit of utilitarianism increasingly spread in Germany too.
Q: What was the utilitarianism belief towards the able-bodied poor?
A: In utilitarianism, if the able-bodied were destitute, it was seen as their fault for being idle.
The Introduction of New Crops and the Potato Revolts
Q: What was the impact of new crops such as maize and sugar beets on Europe?
A: New crops such as maize and sugar beets allowed landowners and peasants to diversify into more industrial kinds of production.
Q: What was the impact of potatoes in Europe?
A: Potatoes gained acceptance due to it being easy to grow and cook while being nutritious, leading to the cultivation of potatoes increasing dramatically throughout the early decades of the nineteenth century, especially in Ireland where it became an indispensable foodstuff.
Q: What were the potato revolts in Europe?
A: The new crop, the potato, was slow to gain acceptance among the European peasantry, causing government attempts to make state serfs plant them to spark a series of violent disturbances known as the ‘potato revolts’.
The Irish Potato Famine and its Aftermath
Q: How did the Irish Potato Famine impact Europe?
A: The summer of 1845 saw a catastrophic collapse in potato crops due to a fungal blight, causing widespread famine in Ireland and other parts of Europe, resulting in many deaths due to people succumbing to diseases from malnourishment.
Q: Were there any relief efforts in response to the Irish Potato Famine?
A: The crisis was mitigated by relief efforts organized by governments and local committees, as well as the intervention of the landowning elite who had the financial muscle to provide relief for their starving tenants.
Q: What were the long-term effects of the Irish Potato Famine?
A: The crisis also resulted in longer-term effects such as stunted growth, a drop in births, and emigration.
Famine in Other European Countries
Q: Were there any famines in Europe besides the Irish Potato Famine?
A: Yes, other European countries such as Russia and Scandinavia faced famines in the middle decades of the 19th century, with the most recent one occurring in Finland in 1868 and in Sweden in the mid-1860s.
Q: How were famines prevented by the end of the 1870s?
A: Improved transportation and increased government and administrative vigilance by the end of the 1870s prevented bad harvests from leading to famine anymore.
In conclusion, poverty and famine had significant impacts on 19th century Europe. The centralized and localized poor relief systems were ways of addressing poverty but were not effective enough to address the urban poor. The introduction of the New Poor Law in Britain was an attempt to make the able-bodied poor self-reliant, but it faced widespread criticism. The emergence of utilitarianism in Germany cast blame on the poor for their circumstances. New crops such as maize, sugar beets, and potatoes led to increased diversification and production, but the Irish Potato Famine showed how a single crop failure could cause widespread suffering and death. Other European countries faced famines, but transportation improvements and government agency increased vigilance helped prevent the worst effects of these famines.