The paupers


Addicted to help

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Depending on other people's willingness to help hasn't always been easy. Beggars were chased out of town, poor children were forced into hard labour and the 19th century workhouse was more of a deterrent than a help. The road to the welfare state has been long and hard for the poor.

Caring for those unable to support themselves has always been one of society's most important tasks. But care is often a mix of compassion, a willingness to help, distrust and the requirement that the poor must work to the best of their ability. Starting in the 16th century, the number of property-less individuals seeking to work for farmers and craftsmen began to rise. This group was to become today's wage-earners. As their numbers increased, so too did the number of people who at some point in their life were dependent on help from society. The growing ranks of the property-less sparked a development that would eventually lead to the development of today's welfare state.

Beggar hunting

Illegal begging was the target of a merciless eradication efforts in the 16th century. Beggars were frequently rounded up in organised beggar hunts" and set to work on the Crown's construction projects. In the 18th century, institutions to eliminate begging were…

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