The 15th and 16th centuries were a time of great turmoil for Europe. The various religious wars, the 30 years war, and the fluctuation in the economy were just some examples. There was also a rise in population, which led to overpopulation and unemployment, which in turn led to poverty. There were a great number of poor people in Europe in the 15th through 17th centuries. There were varied attitudes and reactions towards those in poverty. The attitudes towards the poor included people feeling it was their duty and responsibility to help them, some people felt anger or resentment towards the poor for being “lazy”, and some had a religious incentive to help those in poverty. Some people’s responses were to help the poor to the best of their abilities, others to criticize and deprecate the poor, and some to help and support the poor with the hope of religious reward.
Many townspeople felt that it was their responsibility as a citizen to care for the poor in their town. For example, a town council in France felt responsible for the “poor begging creatures” and “poor children” in the town, and they respond by renting out a barn at the city’s cost to house and care for the poor. (Doc 2) This shows how the towns felt that it was their duty to care for their poor. Also, Juan Luis Vives, a humanist, felt that the poor, in their deprived situations of begging, stealing, and wandering, are driven to that by necessity of self care. He feels that there is a duty to help the poor, however many people do not act on that duty because they are overwhelmed by the immense number, they uncertain where to put their money, or they just don’t perform the duties commanded of them. (Doc 3) This shows the feeling of responsibility to help the poor that the people had, and also the responses they had to this feeling. Another account of a town council’s meeting says that those poor who are simply unable to find work are deserving of assistance from the city, but those who are idle are...
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