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.


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 ?
Peter Dunkley, "Whigs and Paupers: the Reform of the English Poor Laws, 1830-1834," Journal of British Studies 20 (1981): 135.
The first, looking at the phase of the English Poor Laws until their amendment in 1834, deals with the broad consensus these laws rested on with givers and receivers far into the 18th century, and how it broke down at the turn into the 19th.
From here, Healey traces, both nationally and on the local level, the development of the Poor Laws.
Making use of a rare but invaluable type of source material, Alannah Tomkins' contribution assesses extant autobiographical material from individuals who once resided in the workhouse to provide an analysis of patient perspectives on medical relief provided under the Old Poor Law system.
Children were subject to cruelty and neglect , but these abuses were neither instigated nor condoned by the poor laws.
At the time Pride and Prejudice was published, the Speenhamland system and the reform of the Poor Laws were still topics of heated debate in the House of Commons.
Poverty, Gender, and Life-Cycle under the English Poor Law, 1760-1834.
The ruinous effects of the amended poor law have figured largely in popular memory and scholarly analysis of the famine.
The introduction ranges widely and nimbly steps out of the traditional studies of the Poor Laws and their administration, and the experiences of the poor, into the fertile new ground of poor parents.
Key words: Poor Laws, Speenhamland System, Basic Income.
Local government affected more directly the lives of the poor, unemployed, and the vote-less working class generally - and Boards of Poor Law Guardians.
4); parish outdoor relief and the new poor law of 1834 (ch.