AbstractsLaw & Legal Studies

The Poor: Who Cares? Dutch parliamentary debates about taking care of the poor in the mid-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries

by Noord Aart van

Institution: Leiden University
Year: 2016
Keywords: armenzorg; poor law; armenwet; armenzorg negentiende eeuw; parlement; arm
Posted: 02/05/2017
Record ID: 2063550
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/1887/42735


This thesis is about the changing view of the Dutch national parliament on state responsibility for taking care of the poor during the second half of the nineteenth century. The state, in this context, is understood as the national and local governments plus the public institutions. The thesis compares the debates about poor relief that took place in the Second Chamber, the Dutch lower house, in the mid-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The Poor Laws that were passed in parliament after these debates, in 1854 and 1912, were based on a similar ‘subsidiarity’ principle, with ecclesiastical and private organizations playing the primary, and public organizations a subsidiary, role in the relief of the poor. These laws could give the impression that the national parliament, though it had become more interventionist in other areas, had not really changed its view on state responsibility for taking care of the poor during the second half of the nineteenth century. This thesis shows that this impression is not correct. Though the actual laws did not differ that much, the debates in the parliament certainly did. The central question that this thesis answers is: how did the Dutch national parliament’s view on taking care of the poor change during the second half of the nineteenth century? The historiography about the poor and social policies in the nineteenth-century Netherlands shows that this thesis, by specifically focusing on the debates in the Dutch national parliament in the mid-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, will produce new knowledge on how the parliamentary view on state responsibility for taking care of the poor changed during the second half of the nineteenth century. Also, by comparing the two debates, the thesis gives an example of how nineteenth-century developments can be linked to the emergence of social policies in the twentieth century. Furthermore, the topic of this thesis can be of interest for those who are interested in the current debate about welfare state reform and retrenchment. The thesis is divided into five chapters. The first chapter demonstrates how debate about a growing role of the state in the poor relief started already towards the end of the eighteenth century and explains what the Dutch nineteenth-century poor relief looked like. The second chapter gives a description of the mid-nineteenth-century debate. It first explains the political situation in the national parliament in which liberals and anti-revolutionaries were the important groups. Then it describes the different opinions in the debate. It shows that the debate did not focus on the question of whether relief should be given or not but on the question what the desirable role of the state was in the provision of poor relief. The majority in parliament followed Minister Van Reenen in his view that supporting the poor was in essence not a task of the state but a moral and religious duty and thus should preferably be left to society. For the moment, however, state interference had become indispensible and had to be… Advisors/Committee Members: Dr. Jeroen Touwen, Prof. Jose Harris (advisor).