poor law

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poor law,

in English history, legislation relating to public assistance for the poor. Early measures to relieve pauperism were usually designed to suppress vagrancy and begging. In 1601, England passed the Elizabethan poor-relief act, which recognized the state's obligation to the needy; it provided for compulsory local levies to be administered by the parish, and it required work for the able-bodied poor and apprenticeships for needy children. Local reluctance to support the poor from other areas led to settlement laws limiting migration. Institutional relief was provided by poorhouses, where the aged, sick, or insane were grouped together. From c.1700 workhouses were established where the poor were expected to support themselves by work. However, because of widespread unemployment and low wages, it became customary in the late 18th cent. to give home relief. Poor-law amendments of 1834 sought to establish uniform assistance by placing relief under national supervision; they curtailed home relief and modified the settlement laws. Those amendments assumed that pauperism stemmed partly from unwillingness to work rather than from inadequate employment opportunities. As a result poor relief was maintained at a level below that of the poorest laborer. The Local Government Act of 1929 established the basis for a more far-reaching and humane approach to the conditions of the poor.

Bibliography

See S. Webb and B. Webb, English Poor Law History (1927–29, repr. 1963); J. R. Poynter, Society and Pauperism (1969); M. E. Rose, English Poor Law, 1780–1930 (1971).

poor law

English history a law providing for the relief or support of the poor from public, esp parish, funds
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Combined, the contributions to Medicine and the Workhouse demonstrate the centrality of medical and health concerns to workhouse life, the evolution of a complex system of therapeutic care that shaped institutional life, the opening up of distinct career paths in workhouse medicine, and the diversity of physical and psychiatric complaints that needed to be addressed by those employed within the Poor Law system.
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During this period the legitimacy of the poor law system was widely accepted by both givers and receivers.
The Scottish poor law system long had a reputation as both more rigorous and more religious than that of the English system.
Employed men could now extract themselves from the punitive poor law system, and expect the breadwinner wage as a right.