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Workhouses were institutions introduced in the 17th century to accommodate the poor in exchange for compulsory work. Institutions resembling workhouses existed prior to this, though this entry discusses workhouses from 1601 onwards. This entry also focuses explicitly on workhouses in England and Wales, but similar institutions existed in, for instance, the United States, Canada, Italy, Denmark, Germany, Mexico, and Japan. Whilst workhouses have a varied history, overall, they were purposefully hostile spaces, designed to deter individuals from poverty, which was believed to be emblematic of, and caused by, laziness. The introduction of workhouses should be understood as a moralistic enterprise, in which people were categorised as either ‘deserving’ (typically, this meant children, those with disabilities, the elderly) or ‘undeserving’ (typically, this meant able-bodied adults). Workhouses ...

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