Did you know that the social welfare system in the 16th century was very different from what we have today?
The Elizabethan Poor Laws were a series of laws that were enacted in England to assist the poor. These laws were very controversial and sparked a lot of debate. In this article, we will discuss the Elizabethan Poor Laws and how they changed over time. We will also talk about the impact that they had on society.
During the middle ages, a lot of help for the poorer people in society was provided by the monasteries and the church. However, when Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries in the 16th century, this left a lot of people without any assistance.
This led to more people living in poverty and an increase in people begging or living on the streets.
The Elizabethan Poor Laws divided the population into different categories:
- Impotent Poor – People who were too sick or disabled to work were classified as impotent poor. They received assistance in the form of food, clothing, and shelter.
- able-bodied Poor -People who were able-bodied but could not find work were classified as able-bodied poor. They received a small amount of money to help them survive.
- Idle Poor – People who were able-bodied and could find work, but refused to do so were classified as unproductive poor. They did not receive any assistance.
- Poor Children – were often encouraged into apprenticeships to learn a job
The system was to be overseen and managed by each Parish, as the classification was to be managed by each parish it meant that it would be easier to classify the different groups of people.
The Poor Relief was paid for by a tax on land and houses, the tax was supposed to be paid by the landowners but was often paid by the tenant.
The Elizabethan Poor Law made a parochial approach to tax-raising and relief spending. This meant that rates varied from one Parish to the next, but also in what was available for those who needed it; some had better access than others did.
The Elizabethan Poor Laws were very controversial and sparked a lot of debate. Some people believed that the laws were too harsh and that they did not do enough to help the poor. Others believed that the laws were too lenient and that they encouraged laziness.
The Elizabethan Poor Laws were eventually replaced by the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834. This act made some changes to the system, but it was still very similar to the Elizabethan Poor Laws.
Link/cite this page
If you use any of the content on this page in your own work, please use the code below to cite this page as the source of the content.
Link will appear as Hanson, Marilee. "Elizabethan Poor Laws" https://englishhistory.net/tudor/life/elizabethan-poor-laws/, January 26, 2022