An Old Poor Law on the Continent? Agrarian Capitalism, Poor Taxes, and Village Conflict in Eighteenth‐Century Coastal Flanders

26 Pages Posted: 10 Oct 2018

See all articles by Thijs Lambrecht

Thijs Lambrecht

Ghent University-Universiteit Gent

Anne Winter

Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB)

Date Written: November 2018

Abstract

Poor relief provisions in early modern Europe are often considered to have been characterized by a divide between a uniform, compulsory, tax‐based, and relatively secure and generous poor law ‘system’ in England, and the more haphazard, voluntary, relatively parsimonious, insecure, and predominantly urban relief practices on the Continent. In this article we challenge these assumptions by arguing that the spread of agrarian capitalism in coastal Flanders fostered a reorganization of poor relief that displayed many features considered unique to the English old poor law, including the levying of poor taxes. By exploring the introduction, diffusion, and effects of poor taxes in the rural district of Furnes in the second half of the eighteenth century, we demonstrate that poor taxes were not unique to England, and sharpen our comparative understanding of the causes, implications, and conflicts associated with this particular way of raising revenue for the poor. This supports our more general contention that the influence of the normative framework should not be overstated: more than differences in legislation, similarities in socio‐economic development can explain variations in relief practices in preindustrial Europe.

Suggested Citation

Lambrecht, Thijs and Winter, Anne, An Old Poor Law on the Continent? Agrarian Capitalism, Poor Taxes, and Village Conflict in Eighteenth‐Century Coastal Flanders (November 2018). The Economic History Review, Vol. 71, Issue 4, pp. 1173-1198, 2018. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3264245 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/ehr.12611

Thijs Lambrecht (Contact Author)

Ghent University-Universiteit Gent

Coupure Links 653
Gent, 9000
Belgium

Anne Winter

Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB)

Pleinlaan 2
http://www.vub.ac.be/
Brussels, 1050
Belgium

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