[Excerpt] Over the 85-year period from 1748/50 to 1832/34, real per capita expenditures on poor relief increased at an average rate of approximately 1 percent per year. There were also important changes in the administration of relief with respect to able-bodied laborers during the period. Policies providing relief outside of workhouses to unemployed and under-employed able-bodied laborers became widespread during the 1770s and 1780s in the grain-producing South and East of England. The so-called Speenhamland system of outdoor relief flourished until 1834, when it was abolished by the Poor Law Amendment Act. The aim of the thesis is to provide an economic explanation for the long-term increase in relief expenditures and for the development and persistence of Speenhamland policies.