Benefit claimants will experience the welfare state in its "tough original form" in a TV show fronted by Hilary Devey.
The Dragons' Den star will run her own 1949-style dole office in the new, Channel 4 three-part series.
Claimants "will live by the system's initial strict rules" and viewers will see whether the experience changes their attitudes to work, unemployment and living off the state.
Julia Harrington, Channel 4's commissioning editor for history, said that the show would ask the question "Was the past better or worse today?".
She said: "In this experiment we'll be applying that question to a subject of real contemporary heat and importance: have we lost our way with the welfare state?"
Meredith Chambers, creative director of Twenty Twenty, which is making the show, said: "We're so excited that Hilary passionately wants to get to grips with one of the biggest thorns in the side of public life, in a way that brings scale and attitude."
Other new Channel 4 programmes include a Saturday-night panel show, Comedy World Cup, hosted by David Tennant and featuring teams of comics.
The broadcaster will also be showing two new dramas, Southcliffe, which tells the story of a fictional English market town devastated by a spate of shootings, and Youngers, on E4, which will be set in the UK urban music scene.