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1572 Vagabonds Act

This legislation, often referred to as the 1572 Poor Law, was an early precursor to the modern welfare state. The Act formally moved responsibility for poor citizens from the church to local communities by introducing a tax to raise funds for their provision. In each parish a Justice of the Peace was employed to register those who were poor and unwell and distribute relief to those who were in need. The Act also addressed problems of vagrancy, which were increasing due to a growing population and inflation. A series of Poor Laws were subsequently passed throughout the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and eventually paved the way for the introduction of the modern welfare state with the passing of the 1946 National Health Service Act.


An Act for the Punishment of Vagabonds, and for Relief of the Poor and Impotent.



Catalogue number

Parliamentary Archives, HL/PO/PU/1/1572/14Eliz1n5