[Excerpt] This paper presents new evidence concerning the importance of poor relief as a source of income assistance for unemployed operatives during the Lancashire cotton famine. My comparison of weekly data on the number of relief recipients in 23 distressed poor law unions with estimates of weekly cotton consumption for the period November 1861 to December 1862 suggests that the average length of time between becoming unemployed and receiving poor relief was less than 2 months. This result is shown to be consistent with available evidence on working class saving. Given the meager amount of informal assistance available to them, most operatives were forced to turn to the poor law for income assistance within 4 to 8 weeks of becoming unemployed.
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