Elizabethan Poverty

My notes on poverty in Elizabethan england. Happy revising.

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  • Elizabethan Poverty
    • Why were Elizabethans worried bout poverty?
      • They believed that the poor and wandering groups of vagabonds spread diseases.
      • Beggars often turns to crime as there were no police forces to stop them. The Justices of Peace were responsible for enforcing law and order in local areas and wanted to do a good job for the Queen. They thought that beggars wanted to steal their authority.
      • Most people especially Puritans believed that everyone should work hard to look after themselves and their families. They believed that idleness was a sinus it displeased God. The devil made people idle and os anyone who refused to work should be punished.
      • Rising number of poor made the threat of rebellion greater. Powerful people  who opposed Elizabeth such as Mary Queen of Scots may try to win the support of poor people.
      • Rich and powerful people had a duty to help local people who had fallen on hard times. Monasteries helped them care for the poor until Henry VIII closed them down. Many landowners couldn't afford to look after everyone.
      • Most people believed that everyone had a fixed place in society. Large numbers of wandering beggars threatened the social order as they did not seem to know their place and were not obeying their superiors. If this continued, tens of thousands of people might rebel and overthrow the ruling class. There may be another Peasants Revolt.
    • What were the causes of poverty?
      • Bad harvests resulted in food shortages.
      • The cloth trade collapsed which was one of the biggest export trades. Many weavers and spinners were thrown to of work.
      • The closure of monasteries meant that the poor had nowhere to go.
      • Inflation - the prices went up but people's waged stayed the same.
      • Henry VIII debased coins which meant that the new coins had less gold and silver therefore the coins lost value.
      • Rack-renting- as prices rose, the land that landowners rented to farmers were losing value, so they raised their prices and some farmers had to be evicted.
      • War meant that the government had to charge more taxes from people. Injured soldiers and sailors were left without jobs.
    • Types of poor people
      • Counterfeit cranks dressed in old, dirty clothes and used soap to foam at the mouth and pretend to fit and have epilepsy when people came near them.
      • Clapper dudgeons pretended to be wounded and used arsenic to make their skin bleed.
      • A doxy keeps all the things she has stolen on a large pack on her back. She steals chickens by feeding them bread tied on a hook which chokes and kills the chicken. She then hides it under her cloak
      • Abraham  Men pretended to be mad and walked around half naked making wailing noises.
      • Anglers carried wooden sticks and begged during the day and attached a hook to their stick to steal clothes off the washing line in the evening.
    • The deserving poor were people who deserved to be helped and could't work such as orphans and the elderly. The undeserving poor were people who were too lazy to work such as prostitutes.
    • Poor Laws
      • In 1572, JPs and town officials counted the number of poor people in their area and local people had to pay a poor rate to contribute to the cost of helping the poor
      • In 1572, the new act stated that beggars were to be whipped and bored in the ear. If they were caught three times, they would be executes
      • In 1601, four overseers of the poor had to be appointed to make sure that orphaned children had apprenticeships. A stock or materials had to be provided so that the able bodied could work.
      • In 1576, jJPs had to build two houses of Corrections in each country where beggars were forced to work. JPs had to keep a stock of material so that those who genuinely could't find work had a job.
      • Begging was forbidden and they were to be whipped until they back was bloody and then they were returned to their place of birth or a House of Correction
    • In London, several hospitals were for sick people. Fatherless children were brought up and nourished. Hospitals were founded for lunatics. The undeserving poor were flogged severely and burnt a hole in the right ear. They were sentenced to be hung. Vagrants were sent to work in a House of Correction.
    • In Ipswich, at the tower of Church, citizen made offerings to the poor. Adults who were allowed to beg wore badges. Christ hospitals were for the poor. The clothier of the town sent the undeserving poor to work. If they refused they were punished.
    • In Norwich, a count was made of all the poor people who lived in the city and their need for aims were reviewed weekly. The sick were payed. There was a workplace for men to grind malt and for women to spin. The prisoners worked for their meals and those who refused were whipped. No-one were allowed to help the beggars and vagabonds were arrested.  Idle women and children were selected to work or learn letters until they could live from their work.
    • How previous monarchs dealt with poverty
      • Henry VIII, ordered that beggars should be put in the stocks and then sent back to where they lived in 1495.
      • In 1532, Henry VIII, gave licences to people who were unable to work so that they could beg.
      • Anyone who begged without a license was whipped =until their body was bloody and then returned to where they were born.
      • In 1536, People were asked to give money in church for the poor.
      • In 15747, the beginning of Edward VI's reign, beggars were whipped and branded with the letter V on their forehead. They became a slave for two years. if they tried to escape they were made a slave for life but if they tried to escape again, they were executed. This law was cancelled in 1550.


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