30 April 2018

BOOK: Samantha WILLIAMS, Unmarried Motherhood in the Metropolis, 1700-1850: Pregnancy, the Poor Law and Provision (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018), ISBN 9783319733203, $99.99

Palgrave MacMillan just published a book on unmarried motherhood and poor laws in London during the period 1700-1850.


In this book Samantha Williams examines illegitimacy, unmarried parenthood and the old and new poor laws in a period of rising illegitimacy and poor relief expenditure. In doing so, she explores the experience of being an unmarried mother from courtship and conception, through the discovery of pregnancy, and the birth of the child in lodgings or one of the new parish workhouses. Although fathers were generally held to be financially responsible for their illegitimate children, the recovery of these costs was particularly low in London, leaving the parish ratepayers to meet the cost. Unmarried parenthood was associated with shame and men and women could also be subject to punishment, although this was generally infrequent in the capital. Illegitimacy and the poor law were interdependent and this book charts the experience of unmarried motherhood and the making of metropolitan bastardy.


Samantha Williams is Senior Lecturer in Local and Regional History at the University of Cambridge, UK. She has published widely on the history of poverty and the poor law, including Poverty, Gender and Life-Cycle under the English Poor Law, 1760-1834 (2011) and Illegitimacy in Britain, 1700-1920 (2005) which she co-edited with Alysa Levene and Thomas Nutt.


Introduction: Illegitimacy in London; Pages 1-43
Shame; Pages 45-77
Pregnant and Birthing Bodies; Pages 79-109
The Workhouse; Pages 111-164
Maintenance; Pages 165-205
Punishment; Pages 207-230

More information on the publisher’s website

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