Is this 3rd Year already!

Crikey, where has this term gone?  It has gone so fast.  I also cannot believe that I am in my third year and now having to think ahead what I would like to do after I finish my degree.

This term I have been unwell which has made things more difficult. Dealing with health issues and studying is a precarious dance that I have learnt how to deal with over the past three years.  Not exactly Strictly Come Dancing but close.  Working from bed might sound cool, and maybe the norm by you, young things but sadly it has become a necessity for my old bones. 

Talking of old bones, how did I move so far away from where I wanted to be when I began in year one.  I was desperate to be involved with bones and the bronze and iron age and look at their houses and material culture.   So how did I come to doing a dissertation on Workhouses and the 19th century?  Last year it all got very real about wanting to look at us now and us then.  The news and austerity have also brought it to the forefront with me of how life really hasn’t changed much from then to now. Of how although we are one of the richest countries in the world, we have too many people homeless or on the precipice of homelessness. This is something that I want to pursue once my degree is finished and I have a couple of options to think over.

The cruelty towards the poor hasn’t changed in 200 years, you only must read the headlines about spongers on the breadline and how people don’t want to work and are too idle.  This is so reminiscent of literature I have been reading recently from the 1800s, where the exact same things were said.  All because the rich no longer wanted to help the poor.  They didn’t look at how they were in that position, the thought was and is still, that they brought it upon themselves.  The workhouse buildings, constructed in the same design as prisons were meant to be a deterrent, but a deterrent from what, dying from starvation or disease?  They were a last resort but an only resort for many. 

There are no workhouses today or debtors’ prisons but those at the edges of financial insecurity are hanging on by their fingernails and it is only a matter of time before someone in office thinks about building more.  The question is, if it was suggested now, what would happen?  Would people stand up and fight it, or just let it go because they got into that situation, why should we help?  Or are we a more compassionate society today?

Anyway, I will get off my soapbox for now and get on with researching my next assessment on Historic Country Houses.  Its one extreme to the other, those that have, and those that do not.

Author information

cl1662@york.ac.uk's picture
Carol Leyland
BA Archaeology and Heritage student at the University of York | cl1662@york.ac.uk

I have a deep interest in material culture from the Neolithic through to the Iron Age, especially the shift from the Goddess culture to male centric figures. However, my dissertation focuses on researching workhouses in both the towns and countryside and the impact that the poor law had on single mothers and orphans.