Elizabethan England: The Poor

Causes of Poor, treatment of the poor and types of poor.

  • Created by: Sarah wei
  • Created on: 30-04-09 17:37

Causes of Poverty[1] Social Economic Causes

  • A rising population means unemployment.
  • Inflation (low wage and high prices)
  • More silver in Europe so changing the economy because it's cheaper.
  • Bad harvasts so shortage of food--->Expensive
  • Changes of farming so changing the quality of harvasts
  • Monapolies which are rights to sell certain goods by Lords--> Unpopular
  • Rack-renting therefore high rents so people wne to town to find work
  • Changes in the cloth trade suddenly collapse-->Unemployment.
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Causes of Poverty [2] Political & Religious Causes

  • Henry VIII's debasement of coinage which lowers the worth of coins
  • Wars therefore high taxes, high goverment spending and soldiers left without work afterwards.
  • Failure of poor laws-->>Look past the worst.


  • The dissolution of the monastries, they helped the poor yet it closed during 1536 and 1540 by Henry VIII so charity of the poor was taken away.
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Why were the Poor such a Problem?

  • Turned to Crime-->>Got out of Hand
  • Difficult to catch criminals because there was so many.
  • Goverment feared Beggars-->>Social Order (which nearly happened in the Peasants Revolt in 1381)
  • Puritans--->>Work Hard for family for Idleness is a sin.
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3 Types of Beggars

  • Sturdy Beggars~ Were people who were pretty fit in general but pretended to be ill so they could get money or steal from people-->>Easier than Working (vagabonds/Rogue)
  • Deserving Poor~ Were people who were poor through no fault of their own because they were old, sick or orphaned.
  • Able-bodied Poor~ Were people who either worked but recieved low wages or wanted work but couldn't find it.
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Towns and the Poor: Town:London, Norwich and Ipswi

Red-->>London Yellow-->>Norwich and Ipswich Treatment of the Geniune Poor

  • They were put in hospitals (1603)
  • 1598-9~ Paid money
  • 1557~ Adults given badges to beg but children weren't allowed because they couldn't tell the difference between sturdy and geniune sick.

Treatment of The Sturdy Beggars

  • They were sent to workhouses (1591)
  • 1574-5~Sentenced to be flogged severely and burnt on the right ear and hung.
  • 1603~Sent to work in workhouses.

Treatment Of the Unemployed

  • King Edward VI Bridawell (house of Correction) for Jobs
  • Set to work, if any refused they would be punished
  • Work was found to keep them busy.
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The treatment of the Poor Summary

Sturdy Beggars~Always punished

Deserving Poor~ Always supported

Treatment of the Able bodied~

Start of the Reign-Punished as if Sturdy Beggars

End Reign: Goverment reconised unemplooyment and set up work schemes.

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Poor Laws

1563~ The harsh treatment of the Vagabonds contnued. The impotent poor were still to be supported adn sanyone refusing to pay towards their keep would appear before the JPs.

1576~ The poor would be given work to do in their own homes. If they refused they would be sent to the "house of correction" which is set up in every country. People refusing to pay the local poor rate would be punished.

1601~All Poor Laws passed during the reign was put together in one act-->>Lasted until 1834 meaning this poor law worked.

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Miss E


A good summary of the treatment of the poor in Elizabethan England already summarised for you. Make sure you look up and revise fully anything you are not sure about.



Thank you very helpful 

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