Registration Open: Ideas of Poverty in the Age of Enlightenment, 5-6 September 2018, King's College London

Robin Mills's picture
September 5, 2018 to September 6, 2018
United Kingdom
Subject Fields: 
Cultural History / Studies, Early Modern History and Period Studies, Economic History / Studies, European History / Studies, Intellectual History

** With apologies for cross-posting ** 

Ideas of Poverty in the Age of Enlightenment

Strand Campus, King’s College London, 5–6 September 2018

Convenors: Niall O’Flaherty (KCL) and Robin Mills (UCL)


Although the Age of Enlightenment saw the development of radically new approaches to comprehending and reforming society and politics, our current understanding is that the existence of poverty was rarely problematized by eighteenth-century thinkers, writers and officials – notwithstanding that ‘the poor’ made up the clear majority of Europe’s population. This picture supposedly only changed in the transformative decade of the 1790s. This conference brings together historians with a wide range of geographical and theoretical expertise to re-examine the ways in which poverty was conceptualised in the social, political and religious discourses of eighteenth-century Europe.  


The conference is generously supported by the King’s College London Faculty of Humanities Research Grant Programme, Dept. of History Research Fund and Centre for Enlightenment Studies; University College London’s History Dept. Events Fund; and the Royal Historical Society.



Those wishing to attend are requested to register by emailing Niall O’Flaherty (niall.o’ or Robin Mills ( by 31 August. Places are limited and will be offered on a rolling basis.


Wednesday 5 September

10:30 – Opening Remarks: Gareth Stedman Jones (QMUL)


Panel 1 – 10:45–12:25

Chair: Adela Halo (QMUL)

Anna Plassart (Open University) / Defining poverty: Montesquieu and Burke on the “Working Poor”

Arnault Skornicki (Université Paris Nanterre) / From the “Father of the Poor” to the “Bienfaisance économique”: The Physiocratic Political Economy of Charity

Conor Bollins (QMUL) / ‘Propagating the Species: Understanding the Relationship between Poverty and Population Growth, from Montesquieu to Hume’


Lunch 12:25–1:30


Panel 2 1:30 – 3:10

Chair: TBC

Samantha Williams (University of Cambridge) / A Georgian Child Support Agency? Unmarried Parents, Chargeable Bastardy and the Old Poor Law

Alysa Levene (Oxford Brookes University) / Delinquents or Innocents? Child Paupers in the Eighteenth Century

Tawny Paul (University of Exeter) / Insecurity, Downward Mobility and the Middling Sort. 




Panel 3 3:30 – 5:00

Chair: TBC


James Harris (St Andrews) / The Protection of the Rich Against the Poor: Poverty as a Political Problem in 18th-century British Political Thought’

Ben Dew (Portsmouth) / The British Enlightenment and the Causes of Polish Poverty


Drinks Reception followed by Dinner for Participants


Thursday 6 September


Panel 4 10:30–12:10

Chair: Julia Nicholls (KCL)


Niall O’Flaherty (KCL) / TBC

James Stafford (Universität Bielefeld) / Desolation and Abundance: The Transformation of Irish Poverty, 1720-1820

David Hitchcock (Canterbury Christ Church University) / '"Matter for all Sortes and States of Men": Empire, Improvement, and Imagining Poverty's End in the British Atlantic, c. 1600-1800.


Lunch 12:10-13:20


Panel 5: 13:20–15:00

Chair: James Fisher (KCL)


Alexandra Ortolja-Baird (British Museum) / Poverty and the Social Contract: Cesare Beccaria in the Habsburg-Lombard Administration

Tim Hochstrasser (London School of Economics) / ‘Welfare for whom? The Place of Poor Relief in the Theory and Practice of the Enlightened Absolutist State

Koen Stapelbroek (University of Helsinki) / Poverty and Patriotism: Dutch Decline and Economic Reform in the Eighteenth Century




Panel 6: 15:20–17:00

Chair: Robin Mills (QMUL)


Emma Barker (Open University) / The Image of Poverty in Eighteenth-Century Europe.

Rich Lizardo (University of Pennsylvania) / Poverty in the Time of the Ilustrados: Labour, Reform, and the Role of the Sociedades Económicas in the Spanish Enlightenment

David Womersley (University of Oxford) / Poverty, Providence, Prophecy: Burke’s “Thoughts on Scarcity”


Closing Remarks

Contact Info: 

Robin Mills, UCL

Contact Email: