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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From 1662 to 1712 new laws changed the relationship of the poor to their places of habitation by formalizing criteria – regarding property, employment, and kinship – without which ‘settlement’ could not be gained, and a migrant could be removed. In 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, who was prominent c.1730–1770. The second section illustrates the use of the forms in the North-West and the South-East of England, including the continued use of script in administrative record-keeping, and the symbiotic relationships between print and script – which further places in context the enterprises of the London entrepreneurs. The final section shows how the printed form emerged triumphant, as form production had not only devolved to the provinces, where it became a central aspect of local government, but had been internalized by the legislature in its relationship to the poor. This article thus uncovers aspects of the government of the poor, state formation, material culture, and print culture in England c.1690–1780. Its theoretical implications concern the relationships between print, script, and the state, which preoccupy an array of disciplines. The arguments emphasise 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, in response to the law.

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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:
11 May 2022 05:07