chapter  6
For the most need: comparative views of reform
Pages 36

London shared a fear of disorder and a tendency towards discrimination in charity with Protestant and Catholic cities in Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Common pressures - inflation, disease, population growth - perceptions of disorder, and religious change led to the separation of the deserving from the undeserving poor and the reform of relief throughout Europe. Material factors help to explain contractions in relief and charity, but social and religious attitudes about the nature of the poor and the purpose of charity also make sense of widespread reform that stretched into the seventeenth century. Differences in the roles of men and women relating to charity and relief, however, distinguished English and Continental practices, as did the English innovations of compulsory rates and workhouses. 1

The period spanned by England's Reformation, into the early seventeenth century, wrought great changes in the lives of Londoners. The population of London quadrupled between 1500 and 1600 and doubled again by 1650, making intimate knowledge of the lives and reputations of the poor, a pre-Reformation goal as well, more difficult to attain. Charity and poor relief in the city, whether voluntarily supported through last wills or involuntarily paid for through parish rates, showed inhabitants' responses to new problems. Charity survived the Reformation, although altered by it and by social changes in early modern England, but by the late seventeenth century, as Slack argues, it would simply supplement relief. 2 Despite the city's growth and discrimi-

nation, donors, and the parochial leaders administering rates and hequests attempted to maintain traditional face-to-face almsgiving, since older notions of obligation and compassion to poor neighbours still motivated Londoners to give. Parishes and testators hence increasingly focused on the poor within parochial limits or sheltered in institutional walls and spent less on the unknown poor scattered throughout the city.3