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Timeline :: Poverty, A Study of Town Life published

Rowntree book

B. Seebohm Rowntree published Poverty, A Study of Town life, London, Macmillan. This study details Rowntree's investigation of poverty in York, England, which began in 1899, and set out to test the findings of Charles Booth's study in London, which had begun three years earlier. It is widely considered a seminal work of sociology; it also had great impact on the development of ideas about the nature of poverty at the beginning of the 20th century, demonstrating as it did that poverty arose because of structural factors, not individual failings. Of the 46,000 people surveyed, 20,000 were found to be living in poverty; this was defined as falling below a calculated minimum weekly sum of money 'necessary to enable families to secure the necessities of a healthy life'. 28% of York's population were living in the most serious poverty (or absolute poverty), unable to acquire even basic necessities such as food, fuel and clothing. The study thus marked the first time the notion of a 'poverty line' appeared in sociological research.

Supporters of the Charity Organisation Society disputed Rowntree's findings and argued against his methodology. Nevertheless, Seebohm created a storm in the press and found support amongst liberal politicians including future Prime Ministers David Lloyd George and Winston Churchill.