What should be done with the poor? “ What to do with the poor?” was one of the biggest questions facing Tudor monarchs. Unlike today there was no system of welfare to help those who were unemployed, disabled, old or mothers with children. The monasteries that used to look after the poor and sick were shut down by Henry VIII in 1536-39. Attitudes to the poor The attitudes of people towards the poor were shaped by fear and distrust. Homeless beggars that travelled the country were called ‘vagabonds’. People particularly hated ‘cranks’ that pretended to be sick or disabled. Such cranks might eat soap to froth at the mouth or walk on crutches when they didn’t need them.
Growing numbers of poor people There is no doubt that the number of poor people in England had increased to about 1/3 rd of the population during the Tudor period. Many people could not find work due to the increase in sheep farming (which required less farm workers). The disbanding of the barons’ private armies and the fact that the population had almost doubled in size made it even harder for people to find work. Government approaches to the poor The government took two very different approaches to the poor. Firstly it introduced harsh punishments like whipping and branding to deter people from becoming beggars. Secondly parishes were made more responsible for their poor.
New powers given to parishes:
Parishes now had to appoint beadles to identify who was really poor and who was a crank or vagabond.
Beadles could also expel vagabonds from the parish or punish them.
Workhouses could be set up for healthy beggars. The workhouses provided food and shelter of a most basic kind in return for the work of the poor.
This system was intended to make each parish look after its own poor, to replace the monasteries who had previously looked after the poor. This system lasted, with few changes, until 1834.
The causes of poverty and opinions on the poor As we have seen the number of poor people increased during Tudor times for a number of reasons. People began to complain about wandering beggars (vagabonds) and healthy people who pretended to be sick or disabled. (cranks). This forced the government to act. You are going to sort opinions from facts and also look at what actions the government took and why. Activity: draw a line down the centre of your page. At the top, on the left write ‘OPINIONS ABOUT POVERTY’ and on the right write ‘REAL CAUSES OF POVERTY’. Halfway down the page draw a line across. Underneath this line, on the left, write ‘GOVERNMENT ACTION TO DETER VAGABONDS/BEGGING’. On the right write ‘GOVERNMENT ACTION TO HELP BEGGARS’.
Activity: Read each of the pieces of information on the next two slides. Decide which of the four sections of your grid to put each piece of information in . Remember an opinion is something that cannot proved to be true. A fact can be proved to be true. All beggars are criminals and they commit most of the murders and thefts. Vagabonds could have a large hole bored in their ear (1572 Act). Henry VIII shut down all the monasteries. Unemployment increased because of the population doubling in size. Sheep farming had replaced the growing of crops and this required less farm workers. Beadles should be appointed to expel vagabonds from parishes.
Beggars are to lazy to get a job. Vagabonds could be whipped all the way back to the parish they came from (1531 Act). Parishes must look after their own poor and set up workhouses for the able-bodied poor to work in.work in (1601 Act). Food became very expensive due to bad harvests. People had to travel to look for work at different times of the year. Healthy poor found begging 3 times could be executed. There were no welfare payments for the old, sick, disabled or unemployed. Beggars should be sent back to where they came from. Vagabonds should be punished severely Vagabonds could be branded with a “V” (1547 Act). What evidence is there that the government action was shaped by peoples’ opinions? What evidence is there that the government action was based on dealing with the real causes of poverty?