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The Impact Of Legislation On The Problem Of Poverty In The Sixteenth Century

2704 words - 11 pages

The Impact of Legislation on the Problem of Poverty in the Sixteenth Century

The legislation for poverty in the sixteenth century was affected by a
concoction of factors. The most prominent ones being, the conducting
of the legislation, the changes in belief, and attitude of the people
and the economy. The impact of the legislation is so difficult to
measure as there were a number of local schemes, which emerged at the
same time. The evidence from this period suggests that the local
schemes were like customised versions of the national schemes, some
carrying out little of the national legislation. The way in which they
adapted the laws was found to have consequences on their
effectiveness. The belief and attitudes of the public living with the
schemes are also a prominent factor as they were highly influenced by
Protestantism and Humanism throughout this century, which affected
their co-operation with the legislation. The economy to this day has a
huge impact on the unemployment figures, and therefore poverty and it
was certainly no different in the sixteenth century. A number of
factors caused fluctuations in it that certainly had implications for
the poor figures, which the legislation had to cope with. What must be
taken into account about all the evidence of this time is that there
are many debates on how seriously living standards fell during the
sixteenth century. The main figures of the poor are from parish
records and censors, many of which are not in existence anymore and
out of the ones left the information is patchy as in some places
little was done to enforce that they were kept accurate and up to
date. The censuses that do exist also reveal that there was a large
range of people who were classified as poor and many historians have
agreed that out of the 50% of people thought to be living in poverty
at the time only 5% of these were living in complete destitution.
Which makes it especially hard to assess if the national acts solved
the situation.

The legislation was a set of national acts, but many local areas
decided to deal with the problem themselves setting up their own local
schemes. Evidence from local schemes such as London and Norwich have
shown that many local schemes customised the national acts to suit
their individual areas. The fact that these places were major towns
may have given the legislation advantages over other places, as they
had established authorities and were able to collect large funding for
the poor. Other areas, with local schemes weren't lucky enough to have
this success due to them lacking these benefits of larger areas. This
means that the success of the legislation varied geographically around
the country. The success of schemes also depending on the amount of
poor in the area, as in some areas the poor were ' easily recognised
and in...

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