skip to primary navigation skip to content

Dr Tom Heritage PhD

Dr Tom Heritage PhD

ESRC Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Historical demographer investigating geographical variations in the experiences and outcomes of the elderly population of England and Wales, 1851-1911.



  • October 2021-present: ESRC Postdoctoral Fellowship, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge


  • 2015-2020: PhD Social Statistics, University of Southampton
  • 2013-2014: MA by Research History, University of Hertfordshire
  • 2009-2012: BA (Hons) History, University of Hertfordshire


  • ESRC Postdoctoral Research Fellowship (2021-present)
  • ESRC +3 Doctoral Studentship (2015-2019)


The study of old age in history has generally concentrated on welfare needs. Specific studies of the extreme poverty, or pauperism, of older people in late nineteenth-century London by Victorian contemporary Charles Booth have remained remarkably influential for historical research on old age. Older people are also examined through institutional care, particularly workhouse accommodation, while the subgroup of the elderly population that were not poor has been underexplored. However, my PhD thesis shows that pauperism was not a universal experience of old age between 1851 and 1911. Using transcribed census data for five selected counties in England and Wales, I find that pauperism was contingent upon many socio-economic factors recorded in census datasets, such as the occupational structure of older people, their living arrangements and their capacity to voluntarily retire from work based on their savings, land and capital. I find that, in some districts of the northern counties of Cheshire and the Yorkshire West Riding, the proportion of men described in the census as 'retired' and the proportion of women 'living on their own means' was greater than the respective proportions of men and women on welfare. For elderly men in particular, there were regional differences in agrarian work. Those in northern England are more likely to run smallholding 'family farms' whereas, in southern England, elderly men generally participate as agricultural labourers. I find that these differences play an important part in the likelihood of becoming pauperised, and adds to a 'north-south' divide in old age pauperism. Furthermore, pauperism was predicated on the events and circumstances of people throughout their life histories and approaching their old age.

My fellowship will enable me to expand upon these findings by examining the experiences of all older people recorded in the census enumerators' books (CEBs) for England and Wales, using Integrated Census Microdata datasets (I-CeM). I will argue that old age has to be assessed more widely in relation to regional and geographical characteristics, as opposed to a narrative stressing the gradual decline of older people and the inevitability of welfare dependence. In this way, we refine Booth's London-centric focus on the relationship between poverty and old age by systematically tracing the diversity of old age experiences. This will be achieved by linking poor relief data recorded on 1 January 1891 from the House of Commons Parliamentary Papers archive with the socio-economic indicators contained in the 1891 census conducted on 5 April, all incorporated at the level of c.650 registration districts in England and Wales. In this way, various groups of older people that were more or less likely to be pauperised are comparatively assessed. I intend to visit record offices across England to extract data on the names of older people recorded as receiving outdoor relief and workhouse admissions using rarely consulted source materials relating to the New Poor Law. These names will be linked with their appearance in the CEBs, and traced back through previous censuses to construct the life histories of older people. Thus, we can determine why some older people received welfare while others did not, based on their past circumstances.


Journal articles

  • Heritage, T., Hinde, A. and Clifford, D., 2020. Household Living Arrangements and Old Age Pauperism in Late-Victorian England. Genealogy, 4, 55, pp. 1-13.
  • Heritage, T., 2019. Old Age, Regionalism and the 'North-South' Divide in Late Victorian and Edwardian England. Romance, Revolution and Reform, 1, pp. 46-71.
  • Heritage, T., 2017. The Living Arrangements of Older People in the 1851 and 1891 Census Enumerators' Books for Hertfordshire. Local Population Studies, 98, pp. 30-53.

Conference reports

  • Coyne, A., Rothery, K. and Heritage, T., 2020. Paths to Marriage: Courtship in England and Wales c. 1700 - c. 1945: Local Population Studies Society Annual Conference 2019. Local Population Studies, 104, pp. 6-11.
  • Boothman, L., Goose, N. and Heritage, T., 2013. LPSS Spring Conference Report, 2013: Urban Mortality in Britain. Local Population Studies, 91, pp. 5-9.

Book reviews

  • Heritage, T., 2018. Review of C. Gilleard, Old Age in Nineteenth-Century Ireland: Ageing Under the Union. The Economic History Review, 71, pp. 674-5. doi:10.1111/ehr.12711



  • Seminar Tutor and Demonstrator: DEMO1001 Introduction to Demographic Methods, Department of Social Statistics and Demography, University of Southampton
  • Seminar Tutor and Convener: DEMO2013 Population History, Department of Social Statistics and Demography, University of Southampton

External activities

  • 2020-present: Member of the Editorial Board, Local Population Studies