By 1596 by a group of individuals who

By thesixteenth century, poverty had become a ‘severe problem’ in England.

1 The prevalence of povertyin early modern English society makes it essential in the understanding ofsocial relations in this period. The period marked some of the most fundamentalchanges in the way poverty was perceived and how the poor were handledthroughout the whole of English history; namely, the effect of the Reformationon attitudes towards the poor and how poverty was to be remedied, as well asthe statutes put in place by the national government i.e. the Elizabethan PoorLaw and how these were implemented locally. The argument put forward in thisessay is that social relations towards poverty reflect wider ideas that pervadethe period; ideas of control, order and hierarchy. To emphasise thishypothesis, three sources have been singled out to represent both specificexamples and subtle nuances to how poverty played a role in social relations. Firstly,there will be an examination of the Swallowfield Articles, which show anattempt at local leadership trying to address the issue of poverty in theirparish.

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Secondly, there will be an analysis of Thomas Hardman’s negativeportrayal of ‘vagabonds’, also referred to as ‘vagrants’ and how this sub-groupof the poor were treated in society. Finally, with the example of Gillis vanTilborch’s Tichborne Dole painting, there will be an examination of charitablegiving as a persistent form of poor relief during this period, and how this tooplayed into social relations.There wasan emergence of local governance in this period that solidified the developmentof social relations between the self-proclaimed leaders of communities and thepoor during this period. The Swallowfield Articles, written in 1596 by a groupof individuals who came together with the intention to be leaders orrepresentatives of the parish, outline a set of resolutions that were to bebestowed upon the community and amongst themselves.

The articles are unusual inthe sense that they provide ‘extraordinary vividness and detail’ into theemerging politics of the parish which remained fairly dormant in the rest ofthe country at this time.2 The context surrounding thearticles is one rooted in a time of uncertainty due to immense social andeconomic dislocation associated with the period. This notion of uncertainty, asthough the order of things was out of balance, may have then pushed members ofthe community to form this ‘compayne’. The ‘compayne’ recognise the need to helpthe ‘honest poore, the blynd, the syck, the lame & diseased persons’.3 This is not an atypicalattitude, since the sick were a group that were ‘viewed with.

..sympathy’ andtreated the most ‘generously’ compared to other groups of the poor nation-wide.4 More interestingly howeveris the use of the word ‘honest’, which opens the discussion of the authors defined’honest’ as. The articles state that the poor need to be ‘warned to lyve them selves’, and that the poor were common ‘disturbers of peace & quyetnes'(15).

5 This language suggeststhat the authors saw themselves as being above the poor, which undoubtedly shapedthe social relations they engaged in. The idea that the masses, which werecomprised largely of the poor, should be ‘subservient and well-behaved’ did havea great influence over local management of the poor.6 Hindle, in his analysis ofthe articles, made the assessment that the ‘compayne’ launched ‘a localexperiment in social regulation’.7 One example of this regulationwas to ‘stay the maryage’, or prohibit the marriage of, the poor.8 The idea that the ‘compayne’felt it within their power to be able to do so emphasises how social relations betweenthemselves and the poor were generally one-sided and showed a lack of empathy.

Itis important to recognise that the articles were only to be viewed by the ‘compayne’themselves, which suggests why they were so open about this extreme example ofregulation. The articles also promote the idea of reverence on the Sabbath day.9 This gives insight intothe religious undertones that were present among the chief inhabitants ofSwallowfield; an undertone that promoted the idea of social order and worldlinessthat would have permeated throughout their community.

The interesting emphasis withinthe opening articles on the chief inhabitants themselves conducting goodbehaviour within their meetings shows that this idea of order applied even tothem.10 However, this pursuit ofsocial order ultimately shaped how they viewed the poor and effected socialrelations within Swallowfield, and similar ideas existed in wider early modernEnglish society.The treatmentfaced by those who were deemed vagrants during this period is an illustrativeexample of how the ideals of order in society shaped social relations.

Thepamphlet produced by Thomas Hardman describes what should be done with vagrantswhen they appear in local communities. The pamphlet was published in 1567, atime in which the problem of vagrancy appeared to be prevalent. The Beggars Actof 1547 exemplified societal concern about vagrants, describing the punishmentfor individuals found who refused to work to be taken before the court andbranded with a V upon their chest and enslaved for two years; an act so outlandish’that there is no evidence in local records that it was ever enforced, and twoyears later it was repealed’.11 Despite the repeal ofthis act, negative treatment towards vagrancy still remained.

Hardman detailssome of the ways in which vagrants should be punished, referencing the ‘stockes’and a ‘whyp’ to ‘whyll wrast out blood’.12 The author’s vindicationtowards the ‘deceitful practices’ of vagrants is documented by the fact thatfrom him home in Kent he occasional took the licenses and money of those whocame to his door and redistributed it among those who he deemed the honest poor.13 Hardman may have felt asthough he was knowledge on the topic of vagrants due to the frequency of interactionswith them, which is unsurprising given that the south-east of Englandexperienced a high volume of migration, and therefore vagrant activity, due tothe area’s prosperity.14 The pamphlet was widelycirculated. For those who could read it, the use of story-telling rhyme wouldhave kept the pamphlet engaging and memorable. However, the inclusionillustrations opened it up to a greater, largely illiterate audience, who couldidentify with the images; this would have been crucial in influencing societalviews on vagrants. Though presumably standard procedure on publications of thistime, the inclusion of ‘vewed, examined and allowed, according unto the QueenesMaiestyes injunctions’15 enhances the fact thatthese views towards vagrants were held from the highest authority in society allthe way down to ‘honest’ poor.

The fear of vagrants fed into the wider idea oforder during the period. Early modern England was dominated by the notion thateveryone had a place in society and a function to fulfil; the vagrant, who wasdeemed idle by wider society and thus of no use, did not fit into this establishedhierarchy and order.16 1 M. K. McIntosh, ‘Poverty, Charityand Coercion in Elizabethan England’, TheJournal of Interdisciplinary History 35 (2005), pg.

4592 S. Hindle, ‘Hierarchy andCommunity in the Elizabethan Parish: The Swallowfield Articles of 1596’, The Historical Journal 42 (1999), pg. 8443 Swallowfield Articles4 J. Kent and S. King, ‘ChangingPatterns of Poor Relief in some English Rural Parishes circa 1650-1750’, Rural History 14 (2009), pg. 1315 Swallowfield Articles6 J. Kent and S.

King, ‘ChangingPatterns of Poor Relief in some English Rural Parishes circa 1650-1750’, pg. 1417 S. Hindle, ‘Hierarchy andCommunity in the Elizabethan Parish: The Swallowfield Articles of 1596’, pg. 8468 Swallowfield Articles9 Swallowfield Articles10 Swallowfield Articles11 M.

K. McIntosh, ‘Local responsesto the poor in late medieval and Tudor England’, Continuity and Change 3 (1988), pg. 22912 Thomas Hardman Vagabonds13 Oxford DNB14 A. L. Beier, ‘Vagrants and theSocial Order in Elizabethan England’,Past and Present 64 (1974), pg. 2015Thomas Hardman Vagabonds16 A.

L. Beier, ‘Vagrants and theSocial Order in Elizabethan England’, pg. 27


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