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The Economics of PovertyHistory, Measurement, and Policy$
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Martin Ravallion

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780190212766

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190212766.001.0001

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Origins of the Idea of a World Free of Poverty

Origins of the Idea of a World Free of Poverty

(p.11) 1 Origins of the Idea of a World Free of Poverty
The Economics of Poverty

Martin Ravallion

Oxford University Press

Knowing the history of thought helps us understand today’s debates. This chapter tells the story of how thinking about the economics of poverty and antipoverty policy evolved up to World War II. The chapter documents both the similarities and the transitions in thinking about poverty and policy. After reviewing some prominent premodern ideas about poverty and antipoverty policies, the chapter traces the changes in thinking from the late eighteenth century, around the time of the publication of Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations, through the nineteenth century and into the first half of the twentieth century. Some of the debates today have had a long history. But, over time, some major changes in thinking and knowledge have had a profound influence on policy. The progress of knowledge has both reinforced and reflected progress more broadly.

Keywords:   poverty enlightenment, anti-poverty policy, protection, promotion, Industrial Revolution, Poor Laws, utilitarianism, Adam Smith, charity, socialism

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