An Act for the Relief of the Poor 1601
Henry VIII (1491–1547), Elizabeth I (1533–1603)
Although the legislation does not establish a distinction between rich and poor, it does provide provisions for the poor in some cases, indicating that the state recognizes its responsibility to provide for the welfare of its citizens. That recognition is usually the result of religious custom or indoctrination, if it isn’t the result of intrinsic benevolence. In England, the Church primarily provided for the impoverished, mainly through monasteries and parish priests, until the end of the sixteenth century. Parishioners’ kindness and tithes provided the required funds.
In 1535, Parliament established a law condemning vagabonds and beggars, and the following year, Henry VIII began his infamous Dissolution of the Monasteries, which drastically reduced parochial finances and resulted in a major rise in poverty.