RELIEF, VIOLENCE, AND THE LABORING POOR: THE FUNCTION OF PUBLIC WELFARE IN PARIS, 1788 TO 1791 (POVERTY, ASSISTANCE, INDIGENT, FRANCE)

DAVID JOSEPH COHEN, University of Pennsylvania

Abstract

This study describes the relationship between public assistance for the Parisian laboring poor and the political turmoil of the first years of the French Revolution. It examines the immediate connections between the expansion and contraction of welfare benefits for the poor on the one hand and the rise and fall of insurgency on the other.^ The work of both historians and social workers serves as a point of departure for the study. The second chapter shows the rapidly developing destitution of the able-bodied poor in 1788 and 1789, and the failure of the ancien regime authorities responsible for assisting them to respond effectively to their needs. The third chapter details the role of the Parisian poor in the rising disorder of the early days of the Revolution. At the same time, Chapter III describes the initial efforts of the new revolutionary authorities, who took over the responsibilities of the royal government and rapidly increased the number of men receiving assistance in public workshops (ateliers de charite). The fourth chapter considers the systematic expansion of public assistance which had begun only haltingly in the summer of 1789. It also explores the changing pattern of the conditions under which relief was given. Chapter V describes the unique institutional arrangements (ateliers de filature) for able-bodied women. From archival records, an in depth portrait of the recipients, the female laboring poor, emerges. Historians have rarely studied the female laboring poor, and the socio-economic data presented in this chapter offers many new insights into their origins and occupations. Similarly Chapter VI describes the men enrolled and the various aspects of their life in the ateliers de filature such as work projects, wage rates, occupation, and crime and fraud. The last chapter studies the use of the public workshops for men to restore order. It summarizes the imposition of restrictive relief arrangements when the public workshops were closed.^ The period from 1788 through 1791 demonstrates a complete cycle of relief giving from social crisis and liberalization to the return of order and the contraction of benefits, and it amply demonstrates that changes in welfare policy have a political dimension. ^

Subject Area

History, European

Recommended Citation

DAVID JOSEPH COHEN, "RELIEF, VIOLENCE, AND THE LABORING POOR: THE FUNCTION OF PUBLIC WELFARE IN PARIS, 1788 TO 1791 (POVERTY, ASSISTANCE, INDIGENT, FRANCE)" (January 1, 1985). Dissertations available from ProQuest. Paper AAI8603623.
http://repository.upenn.edu/dissertations/AAI8603623

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