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When did the Poor become Deserving or Undeserving?

July 27, 2017

Legal History Miscellany

Posted by Sara M. Butler; 20 February 2017.

The economic crisis that dominated the Tudor era was wrought by a combination of factors: explosive population growth (roughly 2.4 million in 1525, to 4.5 million in 1600),[1] increasing levels of inflation that far outstripped rising wages, escalating foreign demand for English wool and its sinister twin the enclosure movement, as well as the elimination of social welfare institutions with the Henrician government’s dissolution of the monasteries. Paul Slack’s categorization of poverty into “deep” and “shallow” offers a useful understanding of how dire the circumstances became: while deep poverty (the chronic nature of structural poverty leading to the multitude of paupers and vagrants) rose until about the year 1620, shallow poverty (that is, the numbers of those who temporarily succumb to deteriorating livelihoods, and often the more distressing sign of calamitous financial hardship) increased gradually from the early sixteenth century until…

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