Poverty in the streets of london

Don't be bored, help the poor!

How it began

Elizabethan England faced a mounting economic problem as the poor became poorer, and a growing army of vagabonds and beggars roamed the streets and countryside. In an attempt to curb the problem, the government passed a series of strict Poor Laws. Life for the poor in Elizabethan England was very harsh. The poor did not share the wealth and luxurious lifestyle associated with famous Tudors such as Henry VIII, Elizabeth I and non-monarchs such as Sir Francis Drake. Unlike today, there was no Welfare State to help out those who had fallen on hard times. A generous local monastery might have helped out before the Reformation but this would not have been available in the second half of Tudor England.

Causes of poverty

During the reign of Elizabeth I, the population rose from three to four million people. This increase was primarily due to a rise in fertility and a falling death rate and meant that the country's resources now had to be shared by a greater number of people.

Measures taken

Society in Elizabethan England was changing and the number of poor people living in abject poverty was increasing. A series of laws was introduced by the English Parliament in 1563, 1572, 1576, 1597 culminating in the 1601 Poor Law. Views on the poor changed throughout this period beginning with a harsh attitude towards the poor but easing towards a more compassionate approach. There were a number of reasons for the poverty and the increasing numbers of the poor in Elizabethan England, some of the reasons dated back to before the reign of Queen Elizabeth.


Briscoe, Alexandra. "Poverty in Elizabethan England." BBC News. BBC, 17 Feb. 2011. Web. 03 Feb. 2016. <http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/tudors/poverty_01.shtml>.

Trueman, C. N. "The Poor in Elizabethan England." History Learning Site. N.p., 17 Mar. 2015. Web. 04 Feb. 2016. <http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/tudor-england/the-poor-in-elizabethan-england/>.

Alchin, Linda. "The Poor Law." The Poor Law. N.p., 1 Mar. 2015. Web. 03 Feb. 2016. <http://www.elizabethan-era.org.uk/the-poor-law.htm>.