There are histories, not one history. The settlement movement provides the foundation of social work. It helped shape Clement Attlee into a reforming prime minister. The movement has long been a bridge between advantaged academia and disadvantaged communities. These and other histories have been and continue to be written.

The interest and focus here is different. Very few settlements exist today. Their light was all but extinguished by the success of the welfare state, introduced ironically enough by Attlee. But 140 years after their founding, some of the challenges that settlements were set up to address either persist or have re-emerged. The separation between rich and poor. The poverty of a life of abundance, the meaning that is lost when economic advancement becomes all encompassing. And to these enduring problems are added those consequent upon the success of the welfare state such as the inability of public systems to support a growing but needy population kept alive by the advancement of medical science.

This history in these pages was written to inform answers to the question: how is the settlement movement relevant to the 21st century?

Read the long history here.

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