1. Exquisite Tweets from @SocialHistoryOx

    PreoccupationsCollected by Preoccupations

    In the 16th century, England created a national system of poor relief....

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    SocialHistoryOx

    Jonathan Healey

    The essence of the system, in place by 1601, was that each parish would tax its wealthy inhabitants and give money to the needy poor.

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    SocialHistoryOx

    Jonathan Healey

    England was uniquely successful in establishing this system across the country, by the 1640s everywhere from London to Northumberland.

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    SocialHistoryOx

    Jonathan Healey

    By the 1690s, redistributive tax was capable of feeding around 5% of the population, a major achievement for an early modern state.

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    SocialHistoryOx

    Jonathan Healey

    This undoubtedly helped England become (probably) the first country to permanently escape famine (the last one was in 1623).

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    SocialHistoryOx

    Jonathan Healey

    It may have helped prevent popular rebellion, and by ensuring people were relieved in their home parishes, it reduced the spread of disease.

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    SocialHistoryOx

    Jonathan Healey

    Most interestingly, the historian Peter Solar suggested that the safety net provided by the poor law allowed ordinary people to take risks.

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    SocialHistoryOx

    Jonathan Healey

    So, if they wanted to sell the farm and become - say - a cotton weaver or iron-worker, they knew they had a social security safety net.

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    SocialHistoryOx

    Jonathan Healey

    For similar reasons, it may have helped allow internal migration (thought this is hotly debated), to industrial and urban areas...

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    SocialHistoryOx

    Jonathan Healey

    But more generally, it helped provide valuable security for people at a time of unstable marketisation and industrial growth. So, yay!

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    SocialHistoryOx

    Jonathan Healey

    (although in the C19th it was decided that the system was too generous and encouraged idleness, so they basically dismantled it. Bastards).

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    SocialHistoryOx

    Jonathan Healey