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"This scholarly and engaging volume shows us where social work has come from, and so helps us understand and shape its future. The author has a gift for making the profession's complex history accessible, whilst respecting its intricacy. The result is an illuminating 'tour de force' - a book that gives perspective and hope." Suzy Braye, Professor of Social Work, University of Sussex, UK "Pierson's richly documented overview of social work's evolution in Britain promises to support coming generations of social workers in learning from their field's responses to changing issues and ideas on assistance for those in need." J. Lee Kreader, Interim Director, National Center for Children in Poverty, Columbia University, USA This introductory textbook provides a concise account of the development of social work in Britain, from its beginnings in the industrial revolution to the present day. The book seeks to recover overlooked experiences and important but forgotten debates, whilst re-examining the concepts and approaches developed by chief architects of the profession. The book has several unique features designed to help students both understand the development of social work and to form their own judgements on the issues it raises: Timelines that mark important practice and policy developments Discussion points that pose questions for readers to think through First hand testimony and excerpts from case records showing the viewpoints, perspectives and decisions of social workers in earlier decades Documentary material that encourages students to critically reflect on the present in light of the pastUnderstanding Social Work is written with the student and educator in mind, in a style and format that makes the history of social work approachable, relevant, and profound. The view of history embodied here is of a continuously unfolding, many-sided phenomenon that offers a rich source of ethical insight, practical experience and moral guidance.