Punishment of Vagabonds and Beggars 1536 Henry VIII

This entry is part 8 of 8 in the series Law - Poor Law

Punishment of Vagabonds and Beggars 1536 Henry VIII

In the same year that Anne Boleyn was executed and the Dissolution of the Monasteries began, this statute was enacted. It didn’t bode well for the poor, this short lived statute illustrates why. The need to fund the poor was a persistent problem and the start of an unpoular basis for taxing the workers. How important was this episode in the development of the Old Poor law?

For Punishment of Sturdy Vagabonds and Beggars Henry VIII 27 c 25. 1536

  • Vagabonds on return to their place of birth or dwelling to be set to work and Children to be put into service
  • Endorsed ‘voluntary’ alms to be collected weekly in each Parish where there were ‘impotent’ poor accounted for
  • Causal alms giving was banned but with a string of provisos

This order was technically lapsed when not renewed later in the same year but it marks the start of considering how to tax, to fund the ‘deserving poor’ who could not work. It was of course an unpopular move when there was any suggestion that such contributions should be mandatory from those that had the means.

This snippet can be reviewed with our growing chronology and Timeline for how the Old Poor Law was formed and subsequently from 1834 onwards with the Poor Law Amendment Act 1834 and after  how the UK’s modern Welfare state was born.

This important aspect of social change across history provides a useful mechanism to better understand how past and present Britain and the UK has over many hundreds of years evolved as it has. What happens next is a big question, is beyond our scope? But the historic facts shed some intriguing light upon what has gone before and how that might inform our future and current approach to helping the less fortunate.

Law & Order, often argued we get the society we deserve…but what do you think? Can history better inform what we do next?


Series Navigation<< Poor Law England 1601<< Review of the Poor Law Act 1832
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