Glenn Patterson’s Belfast

GP's Belfast.v2

As part of the AHRC ‘Poverty and Public Health in Belfast, 1800-1973′ Project, we commissioned a short film to address themes of poverty and social exclusion in the city from the past to the present.

Presented by Belfast novelist Glenn Patterson, this film is now available for viewing at:

The film has been produced for the project at QUB by Dr Olwen Purdue and made by Subterraneanfish

[Added 10.2.17]

PhD Success

Robyn Atcheson has been the PhD Student attached to our project since 2012. We are Robyn Atcheson photodelighted that Robyn has now completed her PhD and that she has been awarded a doctoral degree by the Board of Examiners.

Her dissertation is on ‘Poverty, poor relief and public health in Belfast c. 1800 – 1851′

[added 10.2.17]

Surviving the industrial city

 New Publication

We’re happy to announce a new publication arising from the project:

Olwen Purdue, ‘Surviving the industrial city: the female poor and the workhouse in late nineteenth-century Belfast’, Urban History, 44:1 (Feb. 2017)


In common with many British cities, but unlike the rest of Ireland, late nineteenth-century Belfast experienced rapid industrialization and physical expansion. Women formed a significant proportion of the city’s workforce, attracted by the employment opportunities represented in the burgeoning textile industry. Many of them were economically vulnerable, however, and could find themselves destitute for a number of reasons. This article sets Belfast’s Poor Law workhouse in the landscape of welfare in the city, exploring how its use reflected the development of the city and the ways in which the female poor engaged with it in order to survive.



[Added 2.2.17]

Launch of ‘Surviving the City’


Dr Olwen Purdue (QUB) with co-organisers Ian Montgomery and Janet Hancock of PRONI.

Last night we launched our project exhibition ‘Surviving the City: Poverty and Public Health in Belfast 1888-1914’ at PRONI. The exhibition highlights, through images and text from primary sources, the experience of poverty and poor health in the period of Belfast’s most rapid population and economic expansion, between the granting of city status in 1888 and the outbreak of the First World War. We explore the underside of ‘booming Belfast’ through a series of panels on ‘The emerging city’, ‘Growing pains’, ‘Charity’, ‘Work’, ‘Welfare’ and ‘Public Health’. We’ll be posting images of the panels here in the near future, but in the meantime, you can see them at PRONI before we tour them to public libraries and other sites in the city.

The end of the Irish Poor Law?

Many congratulations to Dr Seán Lucey on the publication of his new book The end of the Irish Poor Law? Welfare and healthcare reform in revolutionary and independent Ireland with Manchester University Press.

Seán’s book examines Irish Poor Law reform during the years of the Irish revolution and Irish Free State. This work is a significant addition to the growing historiography of the twentieth century which moves beyond political history, and demonstrates that concepts of respectability, social class and gender are central dynamics in Irish society. This book provides the first major study of local welfare practices and exploration of policies, attitudes and the poor.

This monograph examines local public assistance regimes, institutional and child welfare, and hospital care. It charts the transformation of workhouses into a network of local authority welfare and healthcare institutions including county homes, county hospitals, and mother and baby homes.

The book’s exploration of welfare and healthcare during revolutionary and independent Ireland provides fresh and original insights into this critical juncture in Irish history. The book will appeal to Irish historians and those with interests in welfare, the Poor Law and the social history of medicine and institutions.

The End of the Irish Poor Law?

The End of the Irish Poor Law?