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The Poverty of Disaster

The Poverty of Disaster
Debt and Insecurity in Eighteenth-Century Britain

Part of Cambridge Studies in Early Modern British History

  • Publication planned for: October 2019
  • availability: Not yet published - available from October 2019
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781108496940

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  • Eighteenth-century Britain is often understood as a time of commercial success, economic growth, and improving living standards. Yet during this period, tens of thousands of men and women were imprisoned for failing to pay their debts. The Poverty of Disaster tells their stories, focusing on the experiences of the middle classes who enjoyed opportunities for success on one hand, but who also faced the prospect of downward social mobility. Tawny Paul examines the role that debt insecurity played within society and the fragility of the credit relations that underpinned commercial activity, livelihood, and social status. She demonstrates how, for the middle classes, insecurity took economic, social, and embodied forms. It shaped the work that people did, their social status, their sense of self, their bodily autonomy, and their relationships with others. In an era of growing debt and the squeeze of the middle class, The Poverty of Disaster offers a new history of capitalism and takes a long view of the financial insecurities that plague our own uncertain times.

    • Tells the history of the eighteenth-century British economy through human stories and experiences
    • Offers a new perspective on economic growth and class formation in early modern Britain
    • Integrates histories of emotions and gender with the history of debt to appeal to those interested in both cultural and economic history
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    Product details

    • Publication planned for: October 2019
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781108496940
    • dimensions: 228 x 152 mm
    • availability: Not yet published - available from October 2019
  • Table of Contents

    Introduction
    Part I. Structures of Insecurity:
    1. The scale of incarceration: debt and the middling sort
    2. Credit and the economic structures of insecurity
    3. Social structures of insecurity
    Part II. The Insecure Self:
    4. Keeping in credit: reputation and gender
    5. Occupational identities and the precariousness of work
    Part III. The Debtor's Body:
    6. Punishing the body: harm and the coercive nature of credit
    7. The worth of bodies: debt bondage, value and selfhood
    Conclusion.

  • Author

    Tawny Paul, University of Exeter
    Tawny Paul is Senior Lecturer in the Department of History at the University of Exeter where her research focuses on the economic and social history of eighteenth-century Britain. She has published widely on the history of economic life as well as in the field of heritage studies. She is the author of numerous journal articles and co-editor of Art and Public History: Approaches, Opportunities, and Challenges (2017) with Rebecca Bush.

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