Photo of Charity Food Queue 1900

Late last night I put up a quote from Richard Oastler, condemning the Victorians’ treatment of the poor as criminals by confining them in the workhouse if they wanted poor relief. This came from Poverty and Public Health 1815-1948, by Rosemary Rees (Oxford: Heinemann 2001). The book is school text on attitudes to poverty, poor relief, health, housing and sanitation in the 19th and early 20th century before the foundation of the NHS and welfare state. It’s profusely illustrated, with contemporary photographs, cartoons, drawings, plans and diagrams. One of the photos is this picture of a group of mainly children waiting for a hand-out of charity food in 1900.

Charity Food Queue

About a year or so ago I put up on this blog a late Victorian – Edwardian poem about children waiting in a queue in the early morning to receive food given as part of poor relief. I commented that this could describe the situation now, in the 21st century. Hundreds of thousands are being forced to use the food bank thanks to Ian Duncan Smith’s, George Osborne’s and Dave Cameron’s destruction of the welfare state and imposition of the sanctions regime. 4.7 million people are living in ‘food poverty’.

The photo is a document of the face of poverty at the turn of the 20th century. With just a few changes in fashion, it could also be the face of poverty in the first years of the 21st.

And it’s a disgrace.

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2 Responses to “Photo of Charity Food Queue 1900”

  1. Florence Says:

    I wonder if the current decimation of the Welfare State is being documented in the same way. That would be an enormously powerful project.

    • beastrabban Says:

      It really would. I don’t know if anyone’s doing it, though. Years ago I did come across a book of the work of a professional photographer in Bristol’s Central Library, who did have a social conscience. One of his photos was of Asian immigrants in the house they’d been given in Britain, which was a hovel, with cracked and peeling plaster. It carried a caption from the artist himself, which made his feelings on the subject very clear.

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