Friday, 23 September 2011

Queen Elizabeth I - The first Georgist?

A few excerpts from Elizabethan Era's page on The Poor Law:

Reasons for Poverty: Land Enclosure

Changes in agriculture during the Elizabethan period led to people leaving the countryside and their village life to search for employment in the towns. The wool trade became increasingly popular during the Elizabethan age, which meant that land which had been farmed by peasants was now dedicated to rearing sheep and a process known as land enclosure meant that the traditional open field system ended in favour of creating larger and more profitable farming units which required fewer people to work on them.

The number of jobs decreased and people were forced to leave their homes in search of employment in the towns.

The Poor Law - 1572 Act

In 1572 the first compulsory poor law tax was imposed at a local level making the alleviation of poverty a local responsibility. Each Parish was responsible to provide for its own aged, sick and poor.

The Justice of the Peace for each parish was allowed to collect a tax from those who owned land in the parish. This was called the Poor Rate. The Law stated that charity for the relief of the poor should be collected weekly by assigned collectors. The money was used to help the 'Deserving Poor' - anyone refusing to pay was imprisoned.

[Note: Business Rates were first collected under this law and are still going strong today; Agricultural Rates were phased out in the first part of the 20th century and Domestic Rates in the latter part]

The Poor Law - 1601 Act

The Poor Law Act 1601 formalised earlier practices making provision for a national system to be paid for by levying land taxes. The 1601 Poor Law act made provision:
* To levy a compulsory poor rate on every parish
* To provide working materials
* To provide work or apprenticeships for children who were orphaned or whose parents were unable to support them
* To offer relief to the 'Deserving Poor'
* To collect a poor relief rate from land owners
Parents and children were responsible for each other, so poor elderly parents were expected to live with their children.


James Higham said...

Very much so - land enclosure. I've a post coming up on that and council interference as well. It's always been the bane of the dwellingless.

The Renegade Ecologist said...

MW - I think Charles the First takes on the mantel as the most Georgist of Monarchs

Updated account of Tony Goslings research on Charles the First anti enclosures acts legislation and how it lead to the English Civil war

Mark Wadsworth said...

JH, we understand what The Enclosures meant and how it affected the little guy, but isn't NIMBYism the same thing?

There's plenty of land there for young people to build houses on, but the NIMBYs prefer to coop them up where they don't want to be, in order to screw rent out of them (however indirectly - selling houses at inflated prices is a form of rent extraction).

TRE, he may have been more Georgist, but he came later so he wasn't the first Georgist.

That would put a funny spin on the English Civil War though - Oli Cromwell fought for the landowners and merchants and the Royalists were actually fighting on behalf of the peasants.

dearieme said...

I know nothing about the Elizabethan enclosures but I've read enough about the Parliamentary enclosures in the 18th and 19th centuries to see that what everyone knows about them is tosh.

Mark Wadsworth said...

D, go on, give us the Home-Owner-Ist spin and explain that they were an act of benevolent kindness towards the peasants to remind them that they were much better paying jobs available in the factories etc.

Anonymous said...

No surprise, Cromwell later revealed his underlying tyrant seeking personality.