By A. L. Beier
Publish 12 months note: First released in 1983
This pamphlet examines contemporary study into the negative legislation of Tudor and Stuart England.
Dr Beier asks the query 'who have been the poor?' and in answering it locations the 'problem of the poor' in its historic context, reading it on the subject of medieval provisions for facing poverty. He indicates how some distance laws was once motivated by way of fiscal adjustments, by way of principles approximately poverty and through the pursuits of the legislators themselves.
Dr Beier evaluates the various interpretations of the terrible legislation, from those that have obvious them as an early 'welfare state' to those that have thought of them to be the manifestation of a 'Protestant ethic'. the foremost poor-law statues are summarized in an appendix, and there's a precious bibliography.
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Extra info for The Problem of the Poor in Tudor and Early Stuart England (Lancaster Pamphlets)
Elton, ‘An Early Tudor Poor-Law’, Economic History Review, 2nd series, VI (1953). N. Hadcock and D. Knowles, Medieval Religious Houses, England and Wales (London, 1971 edn). F. Hadwin, ‘Deflating Philanthropy’, Economic History Review, 2nd series, XXXI (1978). W. Herlan, ‘Poor-Relief in London during the English Revolution’, Journal of British Studies XVIII (1979). G. Hoskins, Provincial England (London, 1963). K. Jordan, Philanthropy in England, 1480–1660 (London, 1959). 12 D. Knowles, The Religious Orders in England (Cambridge, 1959).
Taxing for poor-relief was not always a straightforward matter, however. In the case of Warwick legal battles resulted, lasting over seven years and reflecting deep divisions in the corporation. Despite the early steps by towns to relieve the poor, it would be misleading to think that country areas lagged far behind. In part the impression of urban precociousness is an illusion created by better record-keeping. Nevertheless, evidence of poor-relief exists for rural areas before 1640. As in towns, we find censuses of the poor, as well as efforts to ensure they were victualled in times of scarcity.
The later abuses of the workhouse and the Speenhamland system are too well known to make that sort of claim. Moreover, reformers eventually demanded changes in the laws, until finally the ‘Old Poor Law’ was abolished in 1834. And it is unlikely that the position of the poor was transformed by weekly doles and the rest, any more than that of today’s is by social security payments. But for the ruling élites who instituted and administered the legislation, the poor-laws had positive results. They protected them from a host of disorders that might otherwise have threatened their social supremacy.