Dr Samantha Williams

Reader in Social History Institute of Continuing Education
Official Fellow and Director of Studies in History,
Girton College
Photo of Samantha Williams

History of poverty and unmarried motherhood in England, 1700-1900

PhD supervision

MPhil supervision


  • Tripos Paper 10 ‘British Social and Economic History 1700-1914’, Paper 11 ‘British Social and Economic History Since 1870’, and ‘Historical Argument and Practice’ paper.

Continuing Education:

  • 'Poverty, disease and medicine'
  • 'Family, sex and marriage'
  • 'Agriculture, industrialisation and the poor law'
  • ‘The Georgian and Victorian underworld’
  • 'Victorian values'
  • 'Inventing childhood'
  • 'Health, wealth and poverty'

Fellow of the Royal Historical Society

Member of the Economic History Society


Tags & Themes

Key Publications


  • Poverty, gender and life-cycle under the English Poor Law, 1760-1834 (Royal Historical Society, Boydell and Brewer, 2011)
  • Unmarried Motherhood in the Metropolis, 1700–1850: Pregnancy, the Poor Law and Provision (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018)

 Edited books

  • A. Levene, T. Nutt, and S. K. Williams (eds.), Illegitimacy in Britain 1700-1920 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005)


  • 'The maintenance of bastard children in London, 1790–1834', Economic History Review, 69, 3 (2016), pp. 945–971
  • ‘Unmarried mothers and the new poor law in Hertfordshire’, Local Population Studies, 91 (2013), pp. 27-43
  • ‘The Experience of Pregnancy and Childbirth for Unmarried Mothers in London, 1760-1866’, Women’s History Review, 20 (2011), pp.55-72
  • ‘Poor Relief, Labourers’ Households and Living Standards in Rural England c.1770-1834: a Bedfordshire case-study’, Economic History Review LVIII (2005), pp.485-519 - T. S. Ashton Prize from the Economic History Society
  • ‘Practitioners’ Income and Provision for the Poor: parish doctors in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries’, Social History of Medicine, 18:2 (2005), pp.159-86
  • ‘Earnings, Poor Relief and the Economy of Makeshifts: Bedfordshire in the early years of the New Poor Law’, Rural History, 16 (2005), pp.21-52
  • ‘Malthus, Marriage and Poor Law Allowances Revisited: a Bedfordshire case study, 1770-1834’, Agricultural History Review, 52 (2004), pp.56-82
  • ‘Life Course and Lifecycle: reconstructing the experience of poverty in the time of the Old Poor Law’, co-authored with Susannah Ottaway, Archives, 23 (1998), pp.19-29

 Chapters in books

  • '"They lived together as Man and Wife": plebeian cohabitation, illegitimacy, and broken relationships in London, 1700-1840', in R. Probert (ed.), Changing Relationships? Cohabitation and births outside marriage, 1600-2012 (Palgrave Macmillan) , 2014
  • 'Support for the elderly during the "crisis of the Old Poor Law", c.1790-1834', in C Briggs, P Kitson, and S Thompson (eds.), Population, welfare and economic change (Boydell and Brewer) , 2014
  • 'Britain, 1750-2000', in E Vanhaute, I. Devos, T. Lambrecht (eds.), Rural Economy and Society in North-Western Europe, 500-2000, Making a Living: Family, Income and Labour (Brepols, 2012), pp.70-95
  • ‘“I was Forced to Leave my Place to Hide my Shame”: the living arrangements of unmarried mothers in London in the early nineteenth century’, in J. McEwan and P. Sharpe (eds.), Accommodating Poverty: the housing and living arrangements of the English poor, c. 1600-1850 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), pp.101-219
  • ‘“That the Petitioner Shall have Borne a Good Character for Virtue, Sobriety, and Honesty Previous to her Misfortune”: unmarried mothers’ petitions to the Foundling Hospital and the rhetoric of need in the long eighteenth century’, in A. Levene, T. Nutt, and S.K. Williams (eds.), Illegitimacy in Britain 1700-1920 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), pp.86-101
  • Levene, T. Nutt, and S.K. Williams, ‘Introduction’, in A. Levene, T. Nutt, and S.K. Williams (eds.), Illegitimacy in Britain 1700-1920 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), pp.1-17
  • ‘Caring for the Sick Poor: poor law nurses in Bedfordshire, c.1770-1834’ in P. Lane, N. Raven and K.D.M. Snell (eds.), Women, Work and Wages, c. 1650-1900 (Boydell and Brewer, 2004), pp.141-169