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Poverty in Elizabethan England

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being poor
poor relief
Money given to the poor to help them feed themselves.
Charity. Money given to the poor.
People who moved from place to place looking for work or money.
the poor
People who spent 80% of their income on bread.
Dissolution of the Monasteries
Henry VIII had closed all the monasteries which used to give food and shelter to the unemployed.
Norwich Survey 1570
Found 40% of the poor were under 16.
A woman whose husband had died. Widows were more likely to be poor.
population growth
During Elizabeth's reign, England's population rose by 35%.
population of London in 1603
Why did poverty increase?
Prices were rising; wages weren't rising; changes in the countryside - more sheep farming and enclosure.
bad harvests
Led to food shortages e.g. in 1570s.
Time when the economy is doing badly e.g. 1550s when Spain stopped the English cloth trade in the Netherlands.
Big problem in Elizabethan England caused by changes in the countryside and the decline in the cloth trade.
Why was there an increase in sheep farming?
Farming sheep was profitable because of the wool trade.
How did sheep farming lead to an increase in poverty?
Needed fewer workers which led to unemployment; land was used for grazing sheep or growing food for sheep instead of people.
Large open fields were closed off with hedges.
Why were fields enclosed?
Easier to keep track of animals and use new techniques for drainage and fertilising.
How did enclosure lead to an increase in poverty?
Small farms were merged together and tenants evicted (kicked off the land); fewer workers needed; common land enclosed.
common land
Land in the village which everyone could use e.g. for grazing pigs, foraging for food.
How much English land was enclosed?
Only 2-3%, but a big impact where it happened.
Homeless people who roamed the countryside begging. Vagrants.
Being a vagabond. Also called vagrancy.
Why was the government worried about vagabonds?
Outside the hierarchy of society and outside the law. Landowners were finding it harder to help all the poor. Could cause social unrest.
Thomas Harman
Wrote a book to warn people about vagabonds stealing.
counterfeit crank
One of the types of vagabonds Harman warned about. Pretended to be ill.
rural depopulation
People moved away from the countryside to live in towns.
urban poor
Poor people in towns and cities.
poor rate
Local tax to raise money to give the poor as poor relief.
Who organised the poor relief?
Justices of the Peace (JPs)
Deserving poor
People who couldn't work because of old age or illness. Impotent poor.
Idle poor
People who were fit to work, but didn't. Able bodied poor.
Punishments for vagabonds
Whipped and expelled from the parish if not born there.
How did the government deal with the problem of the poor?
Passed a series of laws to deal with poverty and unemployment.
Statute of Artificers, 1563
Passed to ensure poor relief was collected. People who refused to pay could be imprisoned.
Vagabonds Act, 1572
Vagrants to be whipped and burned through the ear; 3rd offence = execution.
Aim of the Vagabonds Act, 1572
To deter vagabondage and begging.
How did the Vagabonds Act aim to help the poor?
Set up a national poor rate; JPs to keep a register; towns given responsibility to find work for able bodied poor.
Poor Relief Act, 1576
JPs had to find work for able bodied poor. Those who refused to work were sent to a house of correction.
House of Correction
Prison for the able bodied poor who refused to work.
Aim of the Poor Relief Act, 1576
Distinguish between impotent and able bodied poor and find work for the able bodied.
What impact did these changes have?
Poverty still a problem; unemployment seen as a genuine problem; attitudes towards the poor improved a little.