Technologies of identification under the Old Poor Law\ud

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Hindle, Steve;
  • Publisher: British Association for Local History
  • Subject: HN | DA

In this important article Steve Hindle, the leading historian of the local state and the pre-1834 Poor Law, considers the different ways in which parish and township authorities labelled and identified paupers. His paper is closely based upon the lecture which he gave t... View more
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    * An earlier version of this paper was presented at 'Technologies of Identification in Britain and the British Empire', a workshop held at St Antony's College, Oxford, 3 September 2005. I am grateful to Jane Caplan and Eddy Higgs for their invitation to speak on that occasion; and to Alan Crosby for his kind invitation to address the Association today.

    1 39 Elizabeth I, c.3 (1598); 43 Elizabeth I, c.2 (1601). For the context, see Paul Slack, Poverty and policy in Tudor and Stuart England (Longman, 1988) pp.122-131; Steve Hindle, On the parish? The micro-politics of poor relief in rural England, c.1550-1750 (Oxford University Press, 2004), pp.227-229.

    2 OED sub 'off-comer', n.: 'a stranger in the sense of not having been born in the locality'.

    3 David Feldman, 'Migrants, immigrants and welfare from the old poor law to the welfare state', Transactions of the Royal Historical Society 6th ser., vol.13 (2003) pp.79-104.

    4 Patrick Collinson, 'Puritanism and the poor', in Rosemary Horrox and Sarah Rees Jones (eds), Pragmatic utopias: ideals and communities, 1200-1630 (Cambridge University Press, 2001) pp.244-48.

    5 For conveniently printed collections of these differing sets of accounts, see S. Hindle, The birthpangs of welfare: poor relief and parish governance in seventeenthcentury Warwickshire (Dugdale Society occasional papers, 40, 2000) pp.37-74 (appendix II); Martyn Bennett (ed), A Nottinghamshire Village in War and Peace: The Accounts of the Constables of Upton 1640-1666 (Thoroton Society record series, 39, 1995).

    6 Steve Hindle, 'Destitution, liminality and belonging: the church porch and the politics of settlement in English rural communities, c.1590-1660', in Christopher Dyer (ed), The self-contained village?: The social history of English rural communities, 1250-1890 (University of Hertfordshire Press, forthcoming 2006?). Cf. Steve Hindle, 'Exclusion crises: poverty, migration and parochial responsibility in English rural communities, c.1560-1660', Rural History vol.7 (1996), pp.125-49

    7 A.L. Beier, Masterless men: the vagrancy problem in England 1560-1640 (Methuen & co., 1985) pp.7-8 provides a convenient brief summary of the putative characteristics of this 'criminal underworld'.

    8 The original phrase is Tawney's: R.H. Tawney, The agrarian problem in the sixteenth century (Longmans, Green & co., 1912) p.268. The scholarship, much of it by literary scholars, on the 'rogue literature' in which these stereotypes were propagated is rapidly growing both in scale and sophistication. See, for example, William C. Carroll, Fat king, lean beggar:, representations of poverty in the age of Shakespeare (Cornell University Press, 1996), esp. pp.70-96; Linda Woodbridge, Vagrancy, homelessness and English renaissance literature (University of Illinois Press, 2001) esp. pp.39-79; the essays collected in Craig Dionne and Steve Mentz (eds), Rogues and early modern English culture (University of Michigan Press, 2004); and most recently Patricia Fumerton, Unsettled: the culture of mobility and the working poor in early modern England (University of Chicago Press, 2006) pp.33-46.

    9 Peter Clark, 'Migration in England during the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries', reprinted in Peter Clark and David Souden (eds), Migration and society in early modern England (Hutchinson, 1987) p.215. Cf. Thomas Harman, A caveat or

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