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Dr Samantha Shave


I joined the University of Cambridge in 2012 as a researcher on the project 'Inheritance, Families and the Market in Nineteenth and Twentieth-Century Britain', which is funded by the Philomathia Foundation and the Isaac Newton Trust. Using a large number of wills, we will ask questions about wealth, family, kinship and transmission practices, in addition to exploring the impact of new legislation including the Married Women's Property Acts. The Principal Investigators are Professor Martin Daunton (Cambridge), Professor David Green (King's College London) and Alastair Owens (Queen Mary, University of London).

My first postdoc was undertaken at the University of Sussex. Here I worked on the ESRC-funded project 'The Living Standards of Working Households in Britain, 1904-1960', which ran from mid-2010 to January 2013. The main aim of the project was to transcribe and analyse three large-scale expenditure surveys, undertaken by the government during the first half of the twentieth century. I managed the knowledge transfer component of the project and, with The National Archives, ran the Teacher-Scholar Programme. The programme made our research findings accessible to school pupils. After lectures, workshops and a fieldtrip, several selected teachers created lesson plans which have been made available online for any teacher to access, enabling them also to teach the history of living standards in any school.

Prior to my postdoc career I studied geography, social policy and the social sciences at the University of Southampton. My PhD thesis, 'Poor Law Reform and Policy Innovation in Rural Southern England, c.1780-1850' (completed in 2010) was shortlisted for the Economic History Society's Thirsk-Feinstein PhD Prize (2011) and is currently being turned into a monograph for publication by Manchester University Press.   

Research Interests

  • Poverty, wealth & inequality
  • English poor laws, workhouses & institutionalisation
  • Social science & social policy concepts
  • British welfare state


  • Workshops for local history groups and heritage organisations e.g. for volunteers at The Regency Town House (2014)
  • Talks for early career historians, e.g. the IHR History Lab Plus and New History Lab at the University of Leicester (2013)
  • Lecture and seminar for the joint German Historical Institute and Ludwig Maximilians University British History Summer School (2012), held at Ludwig Maximilians University, Munich, on the making of the New Poor Law
  • Lecture, workshop and fieldtrip for teachers on the 'Dawn of Affluence: how did living standards change 1900-1960' Teacher Scholar Programme with The National Archives (2011-13)
  • Lectures at the University of Sussex (2011-12) for two undergraduate courses in modern British History
  • Seminars at the University of Southampton (2006-10) for a double-unit undergraduate course on welfare in Britain from 1800 to present day

Other Professional Activities


  • Consulted by Wall to Wall Productions for programmes such as Who Do You Think You Are? and Back to the Workhouse
  • Interviewed on BBC Radio 4 programme Making History on the topic of parish charities aired 17 September 2013

Key Publications

S.A. Shave, 'The Impact of Sturges Bourne's Poor Law Reforms in Rural England', The Historical Journal, 56, 2 (2013), 399-429. Abstract:

S.A. Shave,'"Immediate Death or a Life of Torture Are the Consequences of the System": The Bridgwater Union Scandal and Policy Change', in J. Reinarz and L. Schwarz (eds.), Medicine and the Workhouse (Rochester University Press, 2013), pp. 164-191. Book details:

S.A. Shave, 'The Dependent Poor? (Re)constructing the Lives of Individuals 'On the Parish' in Rural Dorset, 1800-1832', Rural History, 20, 1 (2009), 67-97. Abstract:

Other Publications

S.A. Shave, 'The Welfare of the Vulnerable in the late 18th and early 19th centuries: Gilbert's Act of 1782', History in Focus, issue 14, theme 'Welfare', (2008). Available online:

Book reviews for: Cultural and Social History, Economic History Review, Family and Community History, Historia Agraria, Journal of British Studies, Journal of Social Policy & Reviews in History. I am currently reviewing a book for the journal Immigrants & Minorities.