Poor Laws

The Poor Laws were a legal system of assistance and charity reform that the European states adopted to relieve the conditions of poor people from the 1520s until the 19th century. As Natalie Davies noted, the study of charity combines different and debated aspects of charitable reforms, from reforms motivated by economic or spiritual considerations to the relationship between the Renaissance and the Reformation. Martin Rheinheimer maintained that it is necessary to consider the heritage and cultural context of the Middle Ages in order to understand the poor laws. In other words, the mendicant orders in the Middle Ages had tried to alleviate the situation of poor people through education, evangelization, and a strong aid system of handouts. Thus, many families, beggars, and vagrants had ...

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