After 1945, it was often assumed that the “rise” of state welfare provision was both desirable and inevitable, and that the task of welfare-state historians was to locate the origins of public welfare provision and explain its growth. However, during the 1970s and 1980 these assumptions were called into question by critics on both sides of the political spectrum, and this led to major changes in the pattern of welfare provision and the relationship between the state and other welfare providers.1 These changes have also had a major effect on the historiography of welfare provision. Historians have been forced to pay much more attention to other sources of welfare, including individuals and families, neighbours and communities, mutual-aid organisations, charities and commercial organisations, and to treat them seriously in their own right, instead of simply regarding them as “precursors” of state welfare.2 The reasons why different forms of welfare provision have been chosen at different points in time have also been subjected to greater scrutiny.3