By Hugh Cunningham, Joanna Innes
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Extra info for Charity, Philanthropy and Reform: From the 1690s to 1850
96 Mutual aid societies were at least in principle warmly approved by those concerned about the condition of the poorer classes right across the political spectrum in the early nineteenth century (at least if their funds were not used to subsidize strikes or other such activities). 97 The notion that their merits might be capitalized upon, and their defects minimized, if the contributory principle which they embodied could only be incorporated into public relief systems, was not slow to occur to contemporaries, on yet another variation - and one pregnant with significance for the future - of state/society collaboration.
Since the Jesuits had played a major role in educational provision, one consequence of that was to encourage states to assert themselves in the educational realm. From the 1760s through the 1780s, most governments made ambitious pronouncements about the kinds of national educational provision they wished to see. As in the case of poor relief, however, translating universal precept into universal practice was generally beyond their ability. 56 In subsequent decades, first enlightened despots, then revolutionary regimes, and finally liberal regimes continued the assault.
The fashion, developing in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, for setting the poor to work was associated with a growing municipal presence in this sphere. 5 1 In the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, practice varied as to how far such institutions were taken under state control, and as to the extent to which new foundations took place under governmental auspices. In this respect, the English state was relatively 'hands-off'. Almshouses and hospitals had often passed into the hands of parish or municipality in the aftermath of the Reformation, but practice varied; local officeholders might be placed ex officio among trustees, but in other cases trustees were formally quite independent bodies, whose members might or might not also as individuals hold local office.