the poor and disenfranchised in Western Europe, including the treatment and health of said poor,
religious attitudes, social sympathy, or lack thereof, and punishment of the vagabonds, all of
which varied from viewpoint to viewpoint. These attitudes existed at an interesting time in
European economics, when the mercantile system was at its peak, and the Agricultural and
Industrial Revolution had not yet changed the European landscape. Beggars and vagabond’s
numbers were much higher then they are in Europe today, with roughly half of the population of
the three centuries in question having just the minimum amount of food and shelter to live.
Moreover, 80% of the population of Europe faced possible starvation, in an era where famine, war,
and poverty were widespread. This situation was often exacerbated by the lack of social welfare,
leading to the poor attempting to find other ways to be aided, which in turn created varying
attitudes and ideas among the more affluent in society towards the poor.
Many notable authors, clergymen, and politicians in this time period encouraged being
charitable towards the poor and downtrodden, yet make the distinction between the unable to
work, and the “idlers” who were merely unwilling to do so. Despite the usual lack of government
social welfare, there were on occasion governments willing to aid their poor, not necessarily for the
benefit of the poor however. In a 1482 meeting in Dijon, France the town council decided to rent a barn for the poor to stay in at night, at the town’s expense. However, the minutes of these meetings
indicate that it should be for the “poor children who go shrieking at night throughout this city”,
showing that the city council’s intentions may not have been as philanthropic as they seem, but
merely attempting to maintain quiet at night (Doc 2). Elsewhere in... [continues]
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