In October 2009, the Centre for Hearth Tax Research, in collaboration with the AHRC, awarded a Collaborative Doctoral Studentship to Ruth Selman to undertake a study on poverty in early-modern Essex.
Unlike other tax records, the hearth tax documents include those who were exempt from payment, thus offering a rare insight into local demographics. As part of the project, these records will be linked to local records to create a new understanding of how poverty in rural and urban communities was dealt with in late-1600s Britain.
The exemption certificates for Essex had, until recently, remained largely un-catalogued, un-repaired and unavailable, but now, for the first time, over 800 untapped documents, which pinpoint exactly who was exempt from tax on hearths, will be examined. Consequently, this PhD will be able to exploit the groundbreaking and exciting potential each certificate has for reshaping the presentation of the day-to-day lives of the poor. Furthermore, when these are contextualised in relation to the remarkable parish record evidence for communities in early modern Essex, it will be possible to reconstruct how poverty as a social problem was addressed by state and society.
The far-reaching impact of this study is highlighted by the high number of collaborative partners which include:
The AHRC funds postgraduate training and research in the arts and humanities, from archaeology and English literature to design and dance. The quality and range of research supported not only provides social and cultural benefits but also contributes to the economic success of the UK. Further information can be found on the AHRC website.
Ruth Selman - AHRC supported PhD candidate
Dr John Price - Project Manager, Centre for Hearth Tax Research