Hav dwelt here ever. No alms. Veri pore: life experiences of the poor in sixteenth-century Norwich - a longitudinal study

Lesley Silvester

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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[Truncated] In 1570, the authorities in Norwich, England, alarmed at the growing number of poor people in the town ordered a census to be taken. This ‘Census of the Poor’ enumerated 2352 people in 790 households. Who were they and where did they come from? What were the life experiences of these individuals? Was their poverty intergenerational? This thesis investigates the experiences of this group of urban poor from 1540-1640 and examines the extent to which their experiences were shaped by their relationship with the Norwich authorities. Genealogical research methodologies are used to carry out a longitudinal study of the families, to interpret the social history of the group over time. Combining these methodologies with modified family reconstitution and nominal record linkage techniques, the detailed narratives produced from this data allow individuals who are less commonly documented, to be given a place in the historical record.

The first chapter of the thesis examines the historiography of poverty studies, followed by a detailed discussion of my methodology, sources and research design. Chapter Two considers firstly the census within the context of the economic and social environment of the city and secondly examines the background of the authorities that were instrumental in establishing the conditions in which the census was taken. This chapter also includes an introduction to three of the aldermen who held office at the time of the census. I have analysed their family histories to enable a comparison of the experiences of wealthy and poor families.

Chapters Three to Six reveal and analyse the findings from my study, making extensive use of case studies. I evaluate the demography of the Norwich poor by exploring marriage strategies, cohabitation and household composition of the cohort. The effects of migration and mobility on the cohort over time are examined, including cross-parish mobility, which demonstrates the human geography of neighbourhood areas. Kinship and network arrangements of the Norwich poor are explored to look for the process and context of social change over time. I then investigate whether the Norwich poor were a community, which was more bound with the authorities who were their main source of support than with each other as family, friend or neighbour. Finally, I investigate the survival expedients employed by the poor of sixteenth-century Norwich.

Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2012


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