poor law


poor law
a law or system of laws providing for the relief or support of the poor at public expense.
[1745-55]

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In British history, a body of laws undertaking to provide relief for the poor, developed in 16th-century England and maintained, with various changes, until after World War II. The original laws provided relief, including care for the elderly, sick, and infant poor as well as work for the able-bodied through local parishes.

Their scope was curtailed in the 1830s, when poverty among the able-bodied was considered a moral failing. The new law provided no relief for the able-bodied poor except employment in the workhouse, with the object of stimulating workers to seek regular employment rather than charity. In the 1930s and '40s the Poor Laws were replaced by a comprehensive system of public welfare services.

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▪ British legislation
 in British history, body of laws undertaking to provide relief for the poor, developed in 16th-century England and maintained, with various changes, until after World War II. The Elizabethan Poor Laws, as codified in 1597–98, were administered through parish overseers, who provided relief for the aged, sick, and infant poor, as well as work for the able-bodied in workhouses (workhouse). Late in the 18th century, this was supplemented by the so-called Speenhamland system of providing allowances to workers who received wages below what was considered a subsistence level. The resulting increase in expenditures on public relief was so great that a new Poor Law was enacted in 1834, based on a harsher philosophy that regarded pauperism among able-bodied workers as a moral failing. The new law provided no relief for the able-bodied poor except employment in the workhouse, with the object of stimulating workers to seek regular employment rather than charity. The growth of humanitarian feeling in the 19th century helped to mitigate the harshness of the law in practice, and the phenomenon of industrial unemployment in the 20th century showed that poverty was more than a moral problem. The social legislation of the 1930s and '40s replaced the Poor Laws with a comprehensive system of public welfare services. See also workhouse.

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Poor law — Poor Poor, a. [Compar. {Poorer} (?; 254); superl. {Poorest}.] [OE. poure or povre, OF. povre, F. pauvre, L. pauper; the first syllable of which is probably akin to paucus few (see {Paucity}, {Few}), and the second to parare to prepare, procure.… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Poor Law — Poor Laws Les Poor Laws ( Lois sur les Pauvres ) se réfèrent à l allocation d une aide financière pour les plus pauvres en vigueur en Angleterre et dans le reste du Royaume Uni entre le XVIe siècle et le XIXe siècle. Elles furent… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Poor law — Poor Laws Les Poor Laws ( Lois sur les Pauvres ) se réfèrent à l allocation d une aide financière pour les plus pauvres en vigueur en Angleterre et dans le reste du Royaume Uni entre le XVIe siècle et le XIXe siècle. Elles furent… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • poor law — poor′ law n. a law or system of laws providing for the relief or support of the poor at public expense • Etymology: 1745–55 …   From formal English to slang

  • Poor law — (engl., spr. pūr lao, »Armengesetz«), in England die gesetzlichen Bestimmungen über öffentliches Armenwesen. Hauptorgan der Armenpflege sind die Unions (Bezirke), die in der Regel aus mehreren Parishs (Kirchspielen) zusammengesetzt sind, aber… …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • poor-law — poorˈ law adjective • • • Main Entry: ↑poor …   Useful english dictionary

  • Poor Law — This article deals chiefly with the English Poor Laws covering England and Wales. For the laws regarding the other areas of the British Isles see Irish Poor Laws and Scottish Poor Law The Poor Law was the system for the provision of social… …   Wikipedia

  • poor law — noun a law providing support for the poor • Topics: ↑law, ↑jurisprudence • Hypernyms: ↑law * * * noun Etymology: poor (II) : a law providing for or regulating the pub …   Useful english dictionary

  • poor law — noun the Poor Law a group of British laws which controlled the help given to poor people in former times …   Longman dictionary of contemporary English

  • poor law — noun Date: 1752 a law providing for or regulating the public relief or support of the poor …   New Collegiate Dictionary


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