Small Navigation Menu

Primary Menu

From the civil list to deferred pay : the British government, superannuation and pensions 1810-1909

Citation: Mcilvenna, Kathleen (2019) From the civil list to deferred pay : the British government, superannuation and pensions 1810-1909. Doctoral thesis, University of London.

McIlvenna PhD final.pdf

Creative Commons: Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0

The history of pensions tends to bookmark the nineteenth century. It either focuses on the pensions associated with placemen, sinecurists and the Civil List, elements of ‘Old Corruption’ targeted by the early nineteenth-century reformists. Or, the focus is on the emergence of old-age pensions towards the end of the century—the different schemes and ideologies that ultimately culminated in the pivotal 1908 Old Age Pensions Act. However, over the course of the nineteenth century occupational pensions were growing across a number of industries. This thesis aims to focus on those pensions, drawing out the motivation behind their creation and implementation. Using the theories of new economic sociologists as a methodological framework the thesis looks closely at the definition of pensions and how this was changed and manipulated by the government, other organisations and workers. In 1859 the British government passed the Superannuation Act. This Act entitled all civil servants who had served for ten years or more and were unable to work due to old age or infirmity to retire on a fraction of their final salary. The Act was an important part of the reform of the Civil Service but in many ways it was also a watershed for retirement remuneration. It built on previous regulation that had established the condition of a retirement payment to be based on age, as well as evidence and ideas of loyalty. But it importantly made this form of payment without the need for employee contribution. Pensions were now part of the employment contract and standardised across the Civil Service, including the lowest paid letter-carriers and rural messengers of the Post Office. This system was extremely influential. The thesis examines its impact not only on Post Office workers within the Civil Service but also on pension provisions in related industries, including the East India Company, Bank of England and two railway companies. Through examination of this range of institutions, the variation in ideology and practice behind nineteenth-century pensions become apparent. By the end of the century, the civil servant and the aged pauper were portrayed both as equals and as polar opposites. Both perspectives rested on whether pensions were viewed as deferred pay or as remuneration solely due to service and loyalty. The end of the nineteenth century saw a tug of war between civil servants and the government over the definition of the Civil Service superannuation. This thesis argues that the government maintained control over the provision by refusing to define superannuation as deferred pay, but it gave Civil Servants the concession of including provisions for families within the superannuation system. Civil servants were forced to concede their claim of entitlement to ensure their demands for families were met.

Creators: Mcilvenna, Kathleen and
Subjects: History
Keywords: Pensions Britain Social History Old Age 19th Century
Divisions: Institute of Historical Research
Collections: Theses and Dissertations
  • 1 January 2019 (completed)


View details