poor law

(redirected from Poor law system)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus.

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.


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
References in periodicals archive ?
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.
Neilson Hancock argued crime and disorder were not inherent characteristics of the Irish, but caused by the lack of an effective and compassionate poor law system.
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.
The problem here goes deeper than the current interest in social history: arguably, the only two lasting achievements of the Tudors were the creation of the Church of England and the creation of a Poor Law system which was to survive until the 1830s.
Employed men could now extract themselves from the punitive poor law system, and expect the breadwinner wage as a right.
There follow three interlinked chapters on 'defining', 'engineering', and 'imposing' British values on Ireland by means of pre-Famine policies including the National Education and Poor Law systems, in addition to problems with relief policies.