Poverty (Population growth led to rising prices. (England also suffered…
Population growth led to rising prices.
England also suffered several poor harvests in the 1550s and 1560s. This led to food shortages and made the problems of rising food prices even worse, causing serious hardships to the poor.
Prices for food and other goods rose much more quickly than wages. Standards of living fell for many workers as they struggled to afford the necessities- many were forced into poverty.
As a result, food prices rose and sometimes there were food shortages.
Because of the rapid population growth, there was growing competition for land, and so rent increased. This trend was made worse by changes in farming practices.
In the 16th century, England's birth rose and death rate fell. This led to huge population growth- during Elizabeth's reig, the English population grew from around 3 million people to over 4 million.
The Poor Laws gave help to the helpless and the deserving poor.
Another Poor Law in 1572 gave local officials the power to decide how much people should pay. By the end of the century there was a national system of taxation to pay for poor relief.
Under the 1563 Poor Law, the undeserving poor could be publicly whipped. In 1572 the punishment was made even harsher- they faced whipping and having a hole bored through their right ear. Repeat offenders could be imprisoned or even face execution.
The 1563 Poor Law gave magistrates the power to raise local funds for poor relief and introduced fines for people who refused to pay. However, each person was still free to decide how much they would contribute.
These taxes were used to provide hospitals and housing for the elderly, the sick and the disabled. Poor children were given apprenticeships, which usually lasted for seven years, and local authorities were expected to provide work for the deserving poor. The Poor Law of 1576 said that poor people could be sent to prison if they refused to take work.
Because voluntary donations were no longer sufficient to fund poor relief, the government began to introduce taxes to raise money for the poor.
People believed that the poor could be split into three categories
The Deserving Poor
People who wanted to work, but weren't able to find a job in their home town or village.
The Undeserving Poor
Beggars, criminals and people who refused to work. Also vagabonds who left their homes and travelled around looking for work.
The Helpless Poor
Those who were unable to support themselves, including young orphans and the elderly, sick or disabled.
The Government became more involved in poor relief.
People began to realise that society as a whole would have to take responsibility for helping the poor, and so the government began to take action to tackle the problem of poverty.
Traditionally, the main source of support for the poor was charity- rich people made donations to hospitals, monasteries and other organisations that helped the poor.However, during Elizabeth's reign the problem poverty became so bad that these charity donations by individuals were no longer enough.
Religious changes meant there was less support for the poor.
Between 1536 and 1541, Henry VII had closed down England's monasteries and sold off their land.
The monasteries had performed important social functions, including providing support for many poor, ill and disabled people. The dissolution of the monasteries removed a valuable source of assistance for people in times of need.