A report on English Poor Laws

Although many deterrent workhouses developed in the period after the New Poor Law, some had already been built under the existing system. This workhouse in Nantwich, Cheshire, dates from 1780.
The Poor Laws in the aftermath of the Black Death (pictured), when labour was in short supply, were concerned with making the able-bodied work. (also see: Sturdy beggar)
The Old Poor Law or Elizabethan Poor Law is sometimes referred to as the "43rd Elizabeth" as it was passed in the 43rd year that Elizabeth I (pictured) reigned as Queen.
Advertisement for builders to build a new Workhouse in north Wales, 1829
Nassau William Senior argued for greater centralization of the Poor Law system.
Infighting between Edwin Chadwick and other Poor Law Commissioners was one reason for an overhaul of Poor Law administration.
David Lloyd George, architect of the Liberal welfare reforms which were implemented outside of the Poor Law system and paved the way for the eventual abolition of the Poor Law.
Punch criticized the New Poor Law's workhouses for splitting mothers and their infant children.

The English Poor Laws were a system of poor relief in England and Wales that developed out of the codification of late-medieval and Tudor-era laws in 1587–1598.

- English Poor Laws
Although many deterrent workhouses developed in the period after the New Poor Law, some had already been built under the existing system. This workhouse in Nantwich, Cheshire, dates from 1780.

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Elizabeth I

Legitimacy (family law)

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Status of a child born to parents who are legally married to each other, and of a child conceived before the parents obtain a legal divorce.

Status of a child born to parents who are legally married to each other, and of a child conceived before the parents obtain a legal divorce.

Elizabeth I
Percentage of births to unmarried women, selected countries, 1980 and 2007.
Nonmarital birth rates by race in the United States from 1940 to 2014. Data are from the National Vital Statistics System Reports published by the CDC National Center for Health Statistics. Note: Before 1969, the rates for all minority groups were consolidated in the category of "Non-White."
The Outcast, by Richard Redgrave, 1851. A patriarch casts his daughter and her illegitimate baby out of the family home.
Magdalene laundries were institutions that existed from the 18th to the late 20th centuries, throughout Europe and North America, where "fallen women", including unmarried mothers, were detained. Photo: Magdalene laundry in Ireland, ca. early twentieth century.
Mileva Marić and Albert Einstein, 1912
Edwin Booth
Alexander Hamilton, 1790
T. E. Lawrence
Fernando (Hernando) Columbus

The Poor Law of 1576 formed the basis of English bastardy law.

Nassau William Senior was an advocate of the centralization of the Poor Law system.

Royal Commission into the Operation of the Poor Laws 1832

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Group set up to decide how to change the Poor Law systems in England and Wales.

Group set up to decide how to change the Poor Law systems in England and Wales.

Nassau William Senior was an advocate of the centralization of the Poor Law system.

The writers of the report suggested radical changes to English Poor Laws:

Poor Act 1575

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Law passed in England under Queen Elizabeth I.

Law passed in England under Queen Elizabeth I.

It is a part of the Tudor Poor Laws and a predecessor to the Elizabethan Poor Laws.

Homeless people sleep near the "LUKOIL" in Moscow

Pauperism

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Pauperism (Lat.

Pauperism (Lat.

Homeless people sleep near the "LUKOIL" in Moscow

pauper, poor) is poverty or generally the state of being poor, or particularly the condition of being a "pauper", i.e. receiving relief administered under the English Poor Laws.

John Everett Millais' The Blind Girl, depicting vagrant musicians

Vagrancy

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Condition of homelessness without regular employment or income.

Condition of homelessness without regular employment or income.

John Everett Millais' The Blind Girl, depicting vagrant musicians
A woodcut from c.1536 depicting a vagrant being punished in the streets in Tudor England
The Pass Room at Bridewell, c. 1808. At this time paupers from outside London apprehended by the authorities could be imprisoned for seven days before being sent back to their own parish.
Caricature of a tramp
Political cartoon by Art Young, The Masses, 1917.

Due to the Poor Laws, vagrants to receive and poverty relief had to seek it from the parish where they were last legally settled, often the parish where they were born.

Unemployment rate, 2017

Unemployment

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People above a specified age (usually 15) not being in paid employment or self-employment but currently available for work during the reference period.

People above a specified age (usually 15) not being in paid employment or self-employment but currently available for work during the reference period.

Unemployment rate, 2017
Unemployment in Mexico 2009
US unemployment rate, 1990—2022. The increase in unemployment during recessions (shaded) is called cyclical unemployment.
Short-Run Phillips Curve before and after Expansionary Policy, with Long-Run Phillips Curve (NAIRU). Note, however, that the unemployment rate is an inaccurate predictor of inflation in the long term.
Okun's Law interprets unemployment as a function of the rate of growth in GDP.
The Beveridge curve of 2004 job vacancy and unemployment rate (from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics)
Karl Marx, Theorien über den Mehrwert, 1956
Unemployment in Europe (2020) according to Worldbank
Unemployment rates from 2000–2019 for United States and Japan and European Union
Unemployment rate in the US by county in 2008
U1–U6 since 1950, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics
A government unemployment office with job listings, West Berlin, West Germany, 1982
Migrant Mother, photograph by Dorothea Lange, 1936
Demonstration against unemployment in Kerala, South India, India on 27 January 2004
Unemployment rate in Germany in 2003 by states
In the Shapiro–Stiglitz model of efficiency wages, workers are paid at a level that dissuades shirking. That prevents wages from dropping to market clearing levels.
Supply-side economics proposes that lower taxes lead to employment growth. Historical state data from the United States shows a heterogeneous result.
Tax decreases on high income earners (top 10%) are not correlated with employment growth, but tax decreases on lower-income earners (bottom 90%) are correlated with employment growth.
Unemployed men outside a soup kitchen in Depression-era Chicago, Illinois, United States, 1931
The Depression of 1873–79: New York City police violently attacking unemployed workers in Tompkins Square Park, Manhattan, New York City 1874
WPA poster promoting the benefits of employment
Unemployment rate of Japan. Red line is G7 average. 15-24 age (thin line) is Youth unemployment.
US labor force participation rate from 1948 to 2021, by gender.
Male participation
Total labor force participation
Female participation

Under the Poor Law systems of England and Wales, Scotland and Ireland, a workhouse was a place people unable to support themselves could go to live and work.

A family support centre in Saint Peter Port, Guernsey, which provides assistance to families with children.

Welfare

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Type of government support intended to ensure that members of a society can meet basic human needs such as food and shelter.

Type of government support intended to ensure that members of a society can meet basic human needs such as food and shelter.

A family support centre in Saint Peter Port, Guernsey, which provides assistance to families with children.
Distributing alms to the poor, abbey of Port-Royal des Champs c. 1710.
An office of the Social Insurance Institution (KELA) in Seinäjoki, Finland
President Roosevelt signs the Social Security Act, 14 August 1935.
Welfare in America
A chart showing the overall decline of average monthly welfare benefits (AFDC then TANF) per recipient 1962–2006 (in 2006 dollars).

The United Kingdom has a long history of welfare, notably including the English Poor laws which date back to 1536.

Vagabonds and Beggars Act 1494

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Act of Parliament passed during the reign of Henry VII.

Act of Parliament passed during the reign of Henry VII.

The Poor Law and settlement laws and Tudor Proclamations that followed reinforced the Vagabonds and Beggars Act 1494, keeping people in their correct societal place.

Malthus in 1834

Thomas Robert Malthus

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English cleric, scholar and influential economist in the fields of political economy and demography.

English cleric, scholar and influential economist in the fields of political economy and demography.

Malthus in 1834
Essay on the principle of population, 1826
The epitaph of Malthus just inside the entrance to Bath Abbey

Malthus criticized the Poor Laws for leading to inflation rather than improving the well-being of the poor.

2006, before restoration

Poplar Rates Rebellion

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Tax protest that took place in Poplar, London, England, in 1921.

Tax protest that took place in Poplar, London, England, in 1921.

2006, before restoration
2008, after restoration
Detail of George Lansbury
Detail

Poplar (now in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets) was one of the poorest districts of London; there was no government support to alleviate the high unemployment, hunger, and poverty in the borough, and the work of Poplar Poor Law Union had to be funded by the borough itself under the poor law.