The settlement of the poor and the rise of the form in England c.1662-1780

Tadmor, Naomi (2017) The settlement of the poor and the rise of the form in England c.1662-1780. Past and Present, 236 (1). pp. 43-97. ISSN 0031-2746

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Abstract From 1662, and increasingly from 1685, new laws were enacted that changed the relationship of the poor to their places of habitation by formalising criteria – regarding property, employment, and kinship – without which ‘settlement’ could not be gained, and a migrant could be removed. In the course of the 1700s, concepts of ‘settlement’ became a part of the national culture. The article examines an important if unintended consequence of the piecemeal legislation: the creation of a large body of administrative forms, familiar to all who visit the local archives, which had an impact on a great number of people. The article’s first section introduces the history of the printed form in England and identifies the London printers who marketed the settlement forms, particularly John Coles, prominent c.1730–70. The second illustrates the use of settlement forms in the north-west and the south-east, including the continued use of script in administrative record-keeping, and the symbiosis between print and script – which further places in context the enterprises of the London stationers. The final section shows how the printed form emerged triumphant, as in the course of time form production had not only devolved to the provinces, where it became a central aspect of local government, but was adopted by the legislature for administering the affairs of the poor. The article thus uncovers aspects of state formation, material culture, and print culture in England during the period. The arguments emphasize the role of both the law and the market in shaping the evolving eighteenth-century state, and the importance of considering not only the implementation of state power from above, but initiatives from below.

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Journal Article
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Past and Present
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This is a pre-copy-editing, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in Past and Present following peer review. The definitive publisher-authenticated version England, C.1662–1780, Past & Present, Volume 236, Issue 1, 1 August 2017, Pages 43–97, is available online at:
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25 Jul 2017 15:38
Last Modified:
25 Oct 2020 04:26