poor law

Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Legal, Wikipedia.

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).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved. www.cc.columbia.edu/cu/cup/

poor law

English history a law providing for the relief or support of the poor from public, esp parish, funds
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
What is most exciting about this book is the reminder that the moral, cultural, and political assumptions inherent in the nineteenth-century poor law persisted through the change to the welfare state.
According to one prediction, 40 percent business activities in Karachi are closed because of poor law and order situation.
Swansea poor law guardian John Dillwyn Llewelyn spoke of "ties of affection" between foster parent and child, although his claim that boarding-out turned "a drone into a working bee" shows how the children were also expected to grow up into independent and responsible citizens.
Take the so-called "Poor Laws." In 1601, the Elizabethan Poor Law required parishes to give relief (food, money, or clothing) to the poor.
The old Elizabethan Poor Law stipulated that no one should be allowed to starve to death and that the poor must be given their daily bread, and it required each parish to provide a poorhouse to shelter the homeless.
Samantha Williams's title is only peripherally connected to her study, for though it promises an analysis of huge swathes of material under the general topic of the English poor laws, the author actually confines herself to the relatively narrow area of poor-law documents in Campton and Shefford.
THE POOR LAW system touched the lives of almost everyone living in 18th- and 19th-century England, whether as ratepayers or recipients.
Gray's approach, a detailed analysis of both the politics of Irish poor law reform and contemporary understandings of poverty and poor relief, is similar to the one he used in his well regarded Famine, Land and Politics: British Government and Irish Society, 1843-50 (1999).
The building, which after the passing of the 1834 New Poor Law became known as the Strand Union Workhouse, is scheduled for demolition in order to make way for an apartment block.
Peter Gray, The Making of the Irish Poor Law, 1815-1843 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2009, 380 pp., 65.00 [pounds sterling] hardback)
Liverpool was one of 21 Poor Law Unions selected for the 18-month project.