A feature of famine relief that has received relatively little attention is the role of private charity. Yet public and private assistance coexisted and they frequently complemented each other. In England, despite the existence of a long-established Poor Law, organized philanthropy continued to be important; by the 1840s, for example, the expenditure of the various philanthropic bodies exceeded state expenditure on poor relief.1 A common feature of state and private aid was that the administrators of both systems viewed religious and social welfare as being closely linked.2 Charity was an integral part of all Christian denominations, and private benevolence was usually attended by the desire to promote thrift, frugality and self-help amongst the poor. These values also underpinned both the British and the Irish Poor Laws.
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