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eairy t1_j9x0z1a wrote

In 1800s Britain receiving welfare (i.e. free stuff) was seen as extremely insulting/embarrassing, and there was very little in the way of state provision, poor people were just left to die. The attitude was that even charity ought to be earnt. Hence the system of The Workhouse came into being. People were given really really horrible jobs to do in return for some food and a place to sleep. Workhouses were seen as a place for the completely destitute, they stigmatised those that lived in them and The Workhouse became something to be avoided at all costs, especially as they were seen as a trap that once entered was hard to leave.

Thus when economic hard times struck and lots of men ended up out of work through no fault of their own, local rich people would pay them to work constructing esoteric things, often referred to as 'a folly', to keep them and their families from falling into the workhouse system. These follies were usually some kind of stone tower on a local hill, but there was lots of variation.

It was busywork that was a fig leaf for receiving charity.


Infamous-Anybody-693 t1_j9x2a3g wrote

Your explanation is so good, it’s uncanny. Thank you and please carry on being awesome.


LBraden t1_j9xin3a wrote

A direct example I can give is one from my family during the US Civil war when cotton was stopped.

The managers of the cotton mills in the local area (and going to the same churches as their workers) decided the best option was to give each man the job of planting 5 flowers a week.

Another that happened to a neighbour of the family was that the Husband died after falling off a ladder cleaning the clock face on the market building, the children got a job as "cheer-uppers" just to bring in some extra income until they where old enough to actually work.


earthmann t1_j9yuycb wrote

Nothing ups the cheer more than a cheer-upper whose dad has just plummeted to his death.


Ludwigofthepotatoppl t1_j9x5p3q wrote

I’d rather build a folly than stake a claim to a section of street, shovel up the horse shit, and ask for tips from passers-by.


Clanstantine t1_j9zcla1 wrote

The United States did a similar thing during the Great depression. They founded the Civilian Conservation Corps. It was a program that provided jobs for unemployed young men. They went and built a lot of our national parks. Last year I went to a birthday party hosted in a stone pavilion in a national park that had photos taken of people from the CCC building it.


Shitinmymouthmum t1_j9ywdfs wrote

I was always told that folly's were just for a show of wealth I like they were also used to keep people out the workhouse. Thanks for the fact


ItDoesntMatter59 t1_j9z8yxw wrote

Although the workhouses were not great they were not exactly as you say. In my family research i have found several relatives who were born lived or died in one. They were the closest thing many had to medical facilities. The idea was to make them a home for the destitute but not be so comfortable people wanted to stay.

You also had to go to the town of your birth to be accepted in one.

A hospital in my town in north London until recently had buildings that were originally from the workhouse it started out as


subtlebulk t1_ja0otxd wrote

This reminds me of how in the U.S. during the Great Depression, Huguette Clark, daughter of Gilded Age Mining Baron William Clark, paid workers to demolish and rebuild her and her mother’s California mansion to help keep people employed.


AlienPearl t1_ja26v6f wrote

How to solve unemployment? Give people jobs.


PoopIsAlwaysSunny t1_j9xmyfw wrote

What I’m reading is that the wealthy hoarded wealth and exploited workers and created vanity projects during lean times to prevent outright revolt


TheDetectiveConan t1_j9xnsfx wrote

Paying people to perform work as an excuse to pay them without them feeling like failures is the exact opposite of hording wealth.


MarioInOntario t1_j9xpxry wrote

Yea and lets not forget this was during the 1800s. If you were an average working class person in Britain, the alternatives were literally dying of starvation or indentured servitude.


PoopIsAlwaysSunny t1_j9yrnud wrote

What about paying them to avoid them storming your home and killing you for exploiting them?


[deleted] t1_j9ytick wrote



PoopIsAlwaysSunny t1_j9yv7qz wrote

Wow. That is an incredibly privileged and mentally unhealthy viewpoint.

You really don’t think crowds of starving peasants would want to kill the wealthy eating steak?


[deleted] t1_j9zv52h wrote



PoopIsAlwaysSunny t1_ja0jie8 wrote

You say that like it’s an insult. What are you? A capitalist? Cause capitalism is literally making our planet unlivable.


[deleted] t1_ja0p0ve wrote

Socialism? Capitalism?

I detest in all ideologies equally.