University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Economic and Social History Seminars > Living at their own hand? Policing the youthful poor in rural England, c. 1620-c.1750

Living at their own hand? Policing the youthful poor in rural England, c. 1620-c.1750

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This paper discusses attempts to enforce the authority of employers and parish officers through drives to force youths into agriculture service in rural England in the C17th and early C18th, both as labour discipline and attempts to regulate poor households. It explores why young women were more likely to be prosecuted than young men throughout the seventeenth century, in terms of parochial expectations and challenges to the parental authority of the poor. The offence evidently became more significant after 1650, a response to labour shortage in a changing demographic and economic context and as part of a nexus of changes in social policy which served to focus attention on the definition of appropriate labour and living standards for the poor. Finally, the paper questions the effectiveness of enforcement even as it argues how much it reveals about the dynamics of the relationship of the poor – both the young and households generally – with local officers, and the limits of the latter’s power.

This talk is part of the Economic and Social History Seminars series.

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