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OOps not benefits, but.....

(6 Posts)
NettleTea Sun 04-Jan-15 23:35:16

So, looking at another thread and the subject of workhouses came up, so I did a little search on the internet to see when they were finally closed down (I knew it couldnt be THAT far back in history, because we have one here which used to be a geriatric hospital, which I had worked in as a kitchen assistant way back - sadly now sold off and turned into very naice flats...., but I digress)
Seems it was around 1930, but regional ones sort of carried on the same old same old right up until the establishment of welfare in 1948, and thats the point many became council run old peoples homes.
Anyway, the thing I then saw, and I was really shocked about, was something called the Poor Law, which was drafted in the 1300s. Before that there were peasants a plenty to do all the workings on the rich mans land. Rich people. Very rich people, Royalty. And lots and lots of very poor peasants.
Then came the black death which wiped out about 40% of the population, meaning that the toffs had far less peasants around to do all their hard work for them.
Ah HA!! at last. peasants in demand. Peasants having a chance to do a bit better for themselves, to reduce the huge gap between rich and poor and maybe make something for themselves. Perhaps take up a new trade, travel around a bit, get on their (not quite invented yet) bikes and find a job in other places.

But Oh No. Not bloody likely. No peasants allowed to get above their station. As a nice gesture there were laws made to keep food prices at pre-plague levels, dont want any of that nasty inflation, but also laws were passed to make sure that there was a maximum, pre-plague wage limit too. And just to make sure they try to go off and become 'freemen' the king passed another set of laws to punish escapees, and place movement restrictions on labourers and beggars.

AIBU to think that there has, despite talk of social mobility (and the bit of time when the welfare state was brought in after the war), been a concerted effort by those in that greedy, greedy top 5% to keep the populus poor.

(and I do expect to be told I am being U)

Just wondering what kind of country this would be had the wealth divide been narrowed way back in the 14th century, or how many other laws like this were passed to keep the peasants in their place. I got too depressed to read much further.....

waitingfor3 Sun 04-Jan-15 23:41:03

NYANBU. The (few) wealthy control the wealth and have no motivation to change that situation. They keep politicians dabbling in the shallow end of the wealth/power pool to keep everything secure.

Salmotrutta Sun 04-Jan-15 23:49:01

I'm not sure it's really any different in countries that don't have "toffs" though is it?

If you look at the USA for example there are/were a different type of hierarchy but a heirarchy all the same.

All those Cabots, Lowells etc. who became the U.S. equivalent of aristocracy?

LeftyLoony Sun 04-Jan-15 23:49:27

Things don't change much, five families in thus country today have more money than the 12 million poorest.

Salmotrutta Sun 04-Jan-15 23:50:13

Or communist countries where the currency was power.

EBearhug Mon 05-Jan-15 00:18:36

Did you get as far as the Peasants' Revolt in 1381? British peasants were, in terms of freedom of movement, a lot better off than most in Europe from the early modern period (end of middle ages). Serfdom wasn't abolished till the 18th and 19th centuries in much of Europe, and it meant the poor often couldn't move to look for work elsewhere, even if they were starving - this freedom of movement is one (but only one of many) reasons why the Industrial Revolution started in Britain.

There were various poor law reforms over the years, notably under Elizabeth I (because of the worries about "masterless men" and then particularly the 1834 Poor Law (which had the idea of deserving and undeserving poor, which seems pretty much current in some areas of government).

And a more equal distribution of wealth - well, there's never really been a truly Marxist state, and the examples of communism that we have seen have not been a great example of it. Even more equal societies aren't without their faults, and I think whichever way you organise society, there are always going to be some power-grabbing, selfish gits, and others who are more sharing.

That's not to say I think we're living in a wonderful state - we're not. But I suspect if wealth had been spread more evenly in the middle ages, we'd not have progressed on so far from then. (Besides, we'd probably still have been giving tithes to the RC church, and the church had a massive amount of wealth and power prior to the Reformation.

I think if wealth had been more equally spread in the 14th century, then we'd probably have never become the world power that we did - it was only really under the Tudors that England began to become a serious player in world politics. A lot of our current standing in the world is as a result of our industrial and colonial history, and that relied on a lot of capital investment. It's possible that crowd-funding would have worked, but I wouldn't bet on it. Individuals usually start things off - funding exploration, inventing a machine, changing models of production - and others copy when they see it working. And some people do put their money to work in good ways; philanthropy is not dead.

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