From the Organic Society to Utopian Civic Virtue:
Reforming the Poor and Re-Forming the Social Order in England, 1500-1550

A. L. Beier


The Three Estates


I. Introduction

     1. One of the oldest debates in modern historiography concerns the debt owed by modernity -- however one defines that slippery concept -- to the middle ages.1 In recent scholarship discussion has focused on representations of the poorest in society, and this essay seeks to explore the timing of the transition to modern views of the needy. With some reservations the paper agrees with the argument for continuity between medieval and early modern periods, granting that "modern" positions on poverty, especially regarding the voluntary poor, were well developed in England before 1500. More generally, the arguments favoring continuity, this essay suggests, apply to thinking about the social order as a whole, which included a very traditional view of the place of poverty and the poor. This is because between 1500 and 1550 it was common to articulate the medieval model of an organic social order of three interdependent estates in which the poor were included in the third estate or "commonalty" and in which the first two orders shared the responsibility of succoring them. This model of society appeared in the writings of several writers of the early and mid-sixteenth century, including the commonwealth-men of the mid-century period. But I also argue there was more to this story than continuities between the medieval and early modern periods, because from the early sixteenth-century -- and linked with the more critical views of the poor -- there were challenges posed to the concept of an organic social order. In its place, driven by civic humanism, there was theorized a society built upon individual virtue, which incorporated new definitions of wealth and poverty, ultimately reinforcing the not so splendid social isolation of the poor.

     2. Late medieval Europe saw the development of new ideas about poverty that laid the foundation for early modern policies.2 The backdrop to these ideas was the growing acceptance of the positive qualities of wealth, resulting in a reconfiguration of the model of society, which broke with the three estates and developed a new theory in which the possession of property was the key. The process began in the fourteenth century when in "Piers Plowman" Langland added a fourth estate of beggars, petty crooks, and wage laborers because they did not fit the traditional model.3 The problem of where to put the poor had possibly originated with the earlier growth of mendicant orders, because in their model they and the poor were expected to beg rather than passively receive the charity of the rich. As Gower remarked in the late fourteenth century, the friars did not belong to any of the three estates. Yet an organic society required both rich and poor to co-exist and be interdependent, so that the rich could get "eternal sustenance" by giving alms, while the poor could redeem their sins by receiving them.4

     3. Further developments in the central and late middle ages included the rejection of the value of poverty, the isolation of beggars and the able-bodied poor, and calls for the destitute to labor for their livelihoods. Beginning in the thirteenth century preachers began to argue that, contrary to the example of the mendicant orders, the poor must work because poverty was a greater curse than laboring. From the 1250s the Sorbonne suggested that poverty was actually a sin and that the poor should work to atone for their failings.5 In Renaissance Italy the affirmation of the positive value of wealth and rejection of poverty began with Petrarch in the fourteenth century and was later linked by civic humanists to concepts of good government. Basically, the argument was that wealth provided the means to serve one's community, as well as to avoid the sins associated with destitution.6

     4. The economic analysis of poverty was advanced by Langland in the fourteenth century. He identified the social and economic sources of hardship as large families, high rents, and low pay. He also listed many groups later deemed "worthy" of relief under the Tudor poor laws and many of whom would be familiar to modern social workers: "the old and infirm, expectant mothers, the maimed and disabled, the incurables, those who have suffered accidental misfortune, captives and homeless men, victims of robbery or unjust litigation, those who lost all in fire or flood. . . ."7 Here was some recognition, later taken up in More's Utopia, of real causes of destitution as opposed simply to imputing sinful behavior.

     5. Although the Tudors are credited with the creation of a national poor law, the legislation had medieval precedents. The Church in the central middle ages had passed into canon law the obligation of parishes to care for their indigent, even setting a proportion of clerical incomes to be devoted to the purpose.8 In addition, Parliament passed legislation in the wake of the Black Death to regulate wages and conditions of employment, and there are indications that serious efforts were made to enforce -- and to resist -- the laws.9 What is more, local communities took action in the period in a variety of venues, including manorial courts who policed vagrants and the unemployed, but also in towns who relieved the local poor.10

     6. It is possible, however, to take too far the argument for continuity of attitudes and policies regarding the poor in the medieval and early modern periods. For one thing there are issues of chronology. Some of the changes in attitude in Italy that began to appear in England in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries would be classified in an Italian context as belonging to the early Renaissance, which most historians would still classify as modern rather than medieval.11 Moreover, as suggested above, the first half of the sixteenth century saw both continuity and change in social theories, including the survival of the three-estate model, but also a sharp disjuncture that deeply questioned its validity and remodeled the position of the poor. Thomas More and others gave much more extensive analytical consideration than previously to the economic origins of poverty and to the crimes that it caused.

     7. In addition, there were developments under the Tudors that were unprecedented. The sixteenth century saw sweeping institutional changes, including statutory mandates to parishes to relieve their poor and to police vagrants. The enforcement of the vagrancy laws on a national scale had few medieval precedents, with evidence surviving of search campaigns for many counties (39 of 52 English and Welsh shires between 1631 and 1639), and perhaps 25,000 arrests.12 The sixteenth century also created new institutions, above all the bridewell, founded in London in 1553, which had novel legal powers and sought to apply a humanist mission of reforming vagrants and prostitutes through incarceration and hard labor. The middle ages had no bridewell, which went on to give its name to penal bodies the world over.13

II. The Survival of Three Estates Theory

     8. The question of the poor was on the leading edge of changing social thinking in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, but models of society were still decidedly "sticky" and traditional. It is too infrequently noticed that the social theory that Edmund Dudley drew upon for his "Tree of Commonwealth" -- written in 1509-10, but unpublished in his lifetime -- was that of the three interdependent estates. This idea, although it had an ancient pedigree, originated in tenth-century France, holding that "here below, some pray, others fight, still others work . . ."; and, that "mankind has been divided into three parts, . . . men of prayer, farmers, and men of war." Three-estates theory was no benign (nor accurate) description of the world as it was. Rather it was an ideology -- "a framework for an ideal classification of the kinds of men"; a "backbone of a value system"; a "justification of certain normative utterances, certain imperatives. . . ."14 That value system stressed mutual aid or what Otto Gierke called "society as organism," a concept that is too little stressed in Duby's otherwise masterly account.15 Galbraith pungently captured one side of this interdependent functionality when he observed that in the middle ages the main responsibility of the poor was to take care of the rich.16

     9. Dudley's "Tree of Commonwealth" held thoroughly to this model. The first estate, the clergy, were to be "lanterns of light" by setting good examples for the estates of the temporality. Their prayers were to reach out to the others, enabling "every man well to prosper and speed in his lawful business"; they were specifically to devote one third of their income for charity and hospitality to the poor.17 The lay elites also had responsibilities to the other orders. They were to be benevolent lords to their tenants and had a special responsibility to support the poor in "God's causes," especially where widows and orphans were concerned. They were to act as peace-keepers, "makers of ends and lovedays, charitable, between neighbors and neighbors, friends and friends. . . ." They were "to defend the poor people from all wrongs and injuries" and, more broadly, to "to defend your prince, the church and the realm."18

     10. Social interdependence cut not just top to bottom. The common people were charged to "remember their rents and payments" to lords, which would maintain unity among them, including the poorest. The better off of the third estate were instructed to be kind to their inferiors: not to "covet great lucre of them that be less than they, but be unto their underlings loving and charitable." Those in their debt they should not throw into prison if they missed or were late with payments; nor should they charge usurious rates of interest. The observance of mutual obligations among the three estates would provide strong roots for "this noble tree of commonwealth."19

     11. William Tyndale also strongly endorsed the interdependence of the three estates. "The Parable of the Wicked Mammon" (1527-8), while mainly an attack upon the doctrine of good works, spelled out how social relations should ideally operate.20 He described how "lords and officers minister peace in the commonwealth, punish murderers, thieves, and evil-doers; and how the commons minister to them again rent, tribute, toll, and custom to maintain their order and estate"; and how the clergy preached the gospel in the parishes and received "an honest living for them and their households. . . ."21

     12. To care for the poor Tyndale used the model of the early Church in which members allegedly shared property. He wrote that "among Christian men love makes all things common: every man is other's debtors, and every man is bound to minister to his neighbor, and to supply his neighbor's lack, of that wherewith God hath endowed him." Further, he stated that "If the whole world were thine, yet hath every brother his right in thy goods; and is heir with thee, as we are all heirs of Christ." All members should think first what would benefit the whole rather than looking for what profit could be made: "Let every man, of whatsoever craft or occupation he be of, whether brewer, baker, tailor, victualler, merchant, or husbandman, refer his craft and occupation unto the common-wealth, and serve his brethren as he would do Christ himself." The reasoning was simple: "Remember that we are members of one body, and ought to minister one another mercifully: and remember that whatsoever we have, it is given us of God, to bestow it on our brethren." The responsibility to one another included conventional forms of charity, but also the obligation on the part of the wealthy to employ the poor who could work. The rich "must see the poor set a-work, that as many as are able may feed themselves with the labor of their own hands, according to the scripture and commandment of God."22

     13. For Clement Armstrong, another evangelical critic of the Church who wrote in the 1530s, the shape of the social matrix was similar to Dudley's and Tyndale's. Armstrong maintained the traditional roles in an organic social order in which the poor were employed and succoured. In his theological writings he asserted regarding the "wealth of the body" that "kings, lords, knights and esquires" had a responsibility to "lead all the bodily members to work. . . ."23 Armstrong began his tract on "How to Reform the Realm" by telling the king and lords, in a passage prefiguring Galbraith, that they "are upholden and borne upon the body." If they wanted to be rich, "they must first see all common people have riches, that out thereof must rise their riches and all people be out of need."24

     14. Armstrong was skeptical about the traditional elites fulfilling their roles in the body social. He observed that they "do not minister to all common people bodily members such gifts of grace as God yearly gives to them, which they should work for the common weal of the whole realm." Yet he expected such ministering to be their natural role and lamented that "all lords were rich in old time, which kept wealthy households and built substantial houses, not having the riches now able to do such acts" because they were caught up purchasing "rich commodities. . . ."25 Armstrong had especially harsh words for the clergy, but still saw them occupying key positions in an organic social order. He attacked their pretensions to political power, their wealth, and their lack of charity to the poor. He began by questioning whether they themselves knew what their role in society was: "the spirituality know not themselves what should be their help," he wrote. Instead they "strive with rigorous means to rule the commonalty," which causes "malice and enmity." The clergy's possessions also caused resentment. Seeing "the spirituality in so great wealth" drove the common people to "grudge against them" and "to think the spirituality hates them. . . ." The remedy was for "all men to live together in charity" and for the clergy "to help all common people in England to live out of need and necessity."26

     15. The publications of the commonwealth-men of the 1540s and 1550s provide the most extensive sixteenth-century articulations of organicism. A Supplication of the Poor Commons, published in 1546, developed the theory along lines similar to Tyndale. Possibly written by Henry Brinklow, an ex-friar and mercer of London, it was a virulent attack both on the monks and the new owners of monastic properties for their failure to care for the poor. Despite Brinklow's radical religious positions, the social matrix of the story was still traditional and the obligations the same. He cited the clergy, the king and his nobles, and the commons who were "the inferior members of the body to their head." God had ordained that the nobles would not "disdain their consciences with this most ungodly oppression." If the king would redress matters, God would ensure "to prosper all them that seek his glory and the wealth of his poor members in this church militant."27 What held the social body together, smoothing the divisions between rich and poor, was the principle of mutual obligation. Like Tyndale, Brinklow's model for the principle of mutual assistance was the early Church. Once the faith was established in congregations, he wrote, "they thought good to provide for the poor impotent creatures" and appointed deacons to collect a tenth of everyone's income and to distribute the collection to the needy and to ministers.28

     16. Another instance of the language of social interdependence appeared in the writings of John Hales when he was a commissioner for depopulation in 1548-9. Hales was a layman, but he used his charges to juries and official correspondence as bully pulpits to promote the idea of an organic social order. His touchstone was the metaphor of the body social. He told a jury in 1548 that if they did their duty honestly and fairly "ye shall show yourselves good members of the body and the commonwealth of the realm, that covet and desire as much the wealth and commodity of your Christian brethren and neighbors, as ye do your own." The source for his charge was God's word, which

Declares us to be members of one body, and bids us to love together like brother and brother: it teaches the magistrates their offices towards their inferiors, and commands all people to be obedient to their superiors: it shows how God rewards well-doers both here and with everlasting felicity, and punishes malefactors both in this world and with eternal damnation.29

In a letter to Protector Somerset in 1548, Hales reiterated the ideal of social harmony. He reported that although some "worldlings" thought his commission would be

but a money matter, yet am I fully persuaded, and certainly do believe in your Grace's sayings, that, maugre the Devil, private profit, self-love, money, and such like the Devil's instruments, it shall go forward, and set such a stay in the body of the commonwealth, that all the members shall live in a due temperament and harmony, without one having too much, and a great many nothing at all, as at this present it appears plainly they have.30

Hales used similar language in his "Defense" against charges of sedition, writing that "the commons and poor people be members of that body, that the nobles and rich men be." Anyone who supported the monarch and the common weal would attempt to maintain the king's subjects "everyone in his degree, and not to go about to diminish and weaken them. It is no perfect body that lacks any member. It is a monster that has arms, and lacks feet."31

     17. Yet another evangelical, Robert Crowley, a printer who was ordained in 1551, published in 1549-50 an "Information" addressed to Parliament in which he attacked similar targets to Brinklow's and stated his adherence to the old social model:

Remember (most Christian councilors) that you are not only naturally members of one body with the poor creatures of this realm, but also by religion you are members of the same mystical body of Christ, who is the head of us all (his members). . . .32

Crowley's "Information and Petition against the Oppressors of the Poor Commons" (1549-50) went into great detail about relations between the rich and poor. Using the body metaphor, he asked "Christian councilors," "what discommodity is it to the head, shoulders, the arms, and other the upper members of the body," who were well clothed, to give the legs and feet hose and shoes "to defend them also from the injuries of the weather, and other hurts . . ."? Asserting the responsibility of the rich to the poor, he urged that "that body is far unworthy to have either legs or feet that will let them go bare, having wherewith to cover them." The councilors, "being the chief members of this noble realm, and having in your hands the wonderful and incomparable riches of the same," should find it no grief to part with a portion of their wealth and give it to the "inferior members. . . ." A body without the inferior parts "is but lame and as a block unwieldy, and must, if it will remove from place to place, creep upon the hands; even so you, if ye had not the poor members of this realm to till the ground and do your other drudgery, no remedy, you must needs do it yourselves." The inferior members were "necessary members of the mystical body of this most noble realm," he wrote. Christian councilors should remember, he stated, that they were not only natural members of one body, but also members of the same mystical body of Christ, who is the head of all members. If anyone forsook the poor, Christ would forsake that person.33

     18. In a similar vein, Thomas Becon held the view that society was organically connected. While criticizing some of the gentry as "very caterpillars of the commonweal," Becon in "The Fortress of the Faithful" (1550) affirmed the principle of interdependence and made exceptions for the "real" gentlemen without whom society would collapse: "Without the true gentleman the commonweal can no more safely be than the body without eyes. For as the eyes are the principal comfort of an whole body, so likewise are the true gentlemen of the commonweal." They were "fathers of the country, maintainers of the poor, defenders of the widows and fatherless, succourers of the needy, comforters of the comfortless, and upholders of the commonweal. . . ." In short, they were "pearls and jewels to a realm, and as necessary for the conservation of a public weal as fire, water, and heat is for the health of man's body."34

     19. Thomas Lever was another commonwealth-man who used the language of social organicism and mutual aid for the poor. In his "Sermon in the Shrouds of St. Paul's" in February, 1550, Lever stated that there were "diverse members of one mystical body of Christ" and that "one member ought as well to be provided for, as another. . . ."35 He accepted the principle of social interdependence and quoted St. Paul, Corinthians 9. But as so often was the case with these writers, he added a barb to the comments he directed at the wealthy: "learn that the more gorgeous you yourselves be in silks and velvets, the more shame is it for you to see other poor and needy, being members of the same body, in rags and cloth, yea bare and naked." He instructed them to "let no part or member of your Christian body be unprovided for: by reason of the which body, ye be heirs of the heavenly kingdom."36 Lever listed the duties of the different members to one another. The rich man "must dispose relief and comfort unto the poor and needy." The merchant and craftsmen "must provide the commonwealth of necessary wares, sufficient plenty." The landlord was to provide his tenants with land to till, and the husbandman would do the tilling, pay rents, and provide food. As evidence, he cited the Apostles' teaching of "all Christian ministers, landlords, officers, and rulers, first to minister unto the people, everyone the duty of his own vocation, afore they gather of the people, rents, tithes, or fees, by the name and authority of that vocation."37

     20. A. O. Lovejoy maintained that the measure of the significance of thought should be not just its originality, but also the extent of its currency among second, even third tier thinkers.38 That this may be true is shown by the writings of those who perhaps had a less public voice than the commonwealth-men. Thus the teenager Edward VI, who attended the sermons by Hugh Latimer, wrote in his private notebook (1551) that mutual obligation was required for the social body to function and to avoid poverty. Of gentlemen he observed that they should not grow so wealthy that they impoverish the peasantry, as in France, because "no member in a well-fashioned and whole body is too big for the proportion of the body. So must there be in a well-ordered commonwealth no person that shall have more than the proportion of the country will bear."39

     21. The Primer, the official book of private prayer of the Edwardian church, also contained extensive instructions to different members of the body that mandated the performance of mutual obligations. It appealed to the "true nobility" to

show themselves in all their doings gentle, courteous, loving, pitiful, and liberal unto their inferiors; living among them as natural fathers among their children, not polling, pilling, and oppressing them, but favoring, helping, and cherishing them: not destroyers, but fathers of the commonalty: not enemies to the poor, but aiders, helpers, and comforters of them. . . .

Landlords were given their possessions by God and should not rack their rents and entry fines, but should let them at rates that tenants could afford so that they could live honestly, support their families, help the poor, and pay their rents. Masters were asked to treat servants gently and without threatening them, because we are all the servants of God and "all brethren, having one Father. . . ." Laborers and "men of occupations" were to do their jobs and "every man labor according to his vocation and calling. . . ." Servants were to obey their masters "in fear and trembling" and not to steal from them.40

     22. When Martin Bucer, the Alsatian reformer who lived in England from 1549 to 1551, examined the issue of alms-giving, the matrix from which he worked was the concept of mutual obligation: "Yea, they be most certain, that as there be in man's body diverse members, not all of one sort, but some more profitable, than some, and yet all requisite, and necessary to make a perfect body." It was the obligation, moreover, of those with "the goods of the world" to have compassion; if they did not, "the love of God does not dwell in them, and so also neither the Kingdom of Christ is in them."41

III. A Utopian World of Virtue: Society Reconfigured, the Poor Reformed

     23. Thomas More's Utopia (1516) began discussions in which the values of poverty and wealth were redefined and the poor were separated analytically from the rest of society. In the process, the whole notion of an organic social order was challenged. Utopia questioned the theory indirectly through an analysis of society, which he found was inherently unstable because of conflicting interests between lords and their tenants, which led to poverty and crime. He described tenants whom their lords "dismissed and compelled, by trickery or brute force or constant harassment, to sell their belongings" and for just a pittance because they had to depart immediately. When their money was gone, "what remains for them but to steal, and so be hanged -- justly, you'd say -- or to wander and beg? And yet if they go tramping, they are jailed as idle vagrants." They were willing to work, but could find none because there was "no need for farm labor, in which they have been trained, when there is no land left to be ploughed." The author saw that there were significant savings in overheads, especially labor costs, when pastoral farming replaced tillage and shed labor: a single "herdsman or shepherd can look after a flock of beasts large enough to stock an area that would require many hands if it were to be ploughed and sowed."42

     24. A further cause of poverty, More found in the conclusion to Book II, centered on the world of labor and included the conditions in which people worked, their wages, the problems of illness and old age. Utopia succinctly identified problems associated with the social separation of the poor, the nature of life-cycle poverty, and issues of social justice. In contrast to the comfortable lives of the rich, the character "Raphael" questioned the justice of artisans, laborers, and farmers working "so hard and so constantly that even beasts of burden would scarcely endure it; and this work of theirs is so necessary that no commonwealth could survive for a year without it?" They lived "such miserable lives that beasts would really seem to be better off." Animals did not have to work unremittingly and probably enjoyed better food. In fact, beasts were better off because they did not have to be concerned about the future. Working people, by contrast, had daily wages that were "inadequate for present needs," allowing "no possible chance of their saving for their declining years." In fact, society made no provision for the welfare of workers, "without whom the commonwealth would simply cease to exist." After their labors had worn them out "by age, sickness and utter destitution, then the thankless commonwealth, forgetting all their pains and services, throws them out to die a miserable death." Getting rid of money and property, as in Utopia, would eliminate crime and "fear, anxiety, worry, toil and sleepless nights. Even poverty, which seems to need money more than anything else, would vanish if money were entirely done away with."43

     25. Unlike the organicists, Utopia questioned the assumption in the principle of mutual obligation that the different estates would, or even could, look after one another. Without abolishing property, there was no permanent fix for poverty according to "Raphael." Even legislation governing the amount of wealth a person could hold was unlikely to work. All the law could do was keep a chronically sick patient alive without curing him or her. The social ills would remain even though they could be mitigated for a time, because "so long as private property remains, there is no hope at all of effecting a cure and restoring society to good health." Borrowing but revamping the body image so dear to the organicists, "Raphael" stated that "while you try to cure one part, you aggravate the disease in other parts" and that "suppressing one symptom causes another to break out, since you cannot give something to one man without taking it away from someone else." Unlike that of the organicists, the body did not naturally hang together, and the reason was the sickness of private property: "the one and only path to the welfare of all lies through equality of possessions." Once property belonged to individuals, however abundant, "every man tries to get as much as he can for his own exclusive use, a handful of men end up sharing the whole pile, and the rest are left in poverty." The result was a polarization of society into two groups "whose fortunes ought to be interchanged: the rich are rapacious, wicked and useless, while the poor are unassuming, modest men, who work hard more for the benefit of the public than of themselves."44

     26. Here, in one fell swoop, Utopia destroyed the notion of organic unity in society and replaced it with concepts of wealth, poverty, and social injustice. The "Thomas More" character protested against the community of goods, arguing that no one would work if there were no prospect of gain; that there would be perpetual conflict if no one could claim the right to property. Yet, significantly, the "More" character did not produce an alternative social scheme, even though the model of the organicist three estates was obviously available.45

     27. What held society together in Utopia was something quite different from hierarchy and mutual obligations. It was the humanist's concept of virtue, which the book applied to all levels of society, even including the criminal and the poor. Utopia broke with the traditional language of social obligation and took up a novel line of thinking from the civic humanism of the Florentine Renaissance of the fifteenth century that praised wealth and critiqued poverty. The debate originated with the seminal figure of Petrarch, who had been imbued with Franciscan and Stoic philosophies that rejected riches and privileged poverty, but who ultimately re-defined their positions. Petrarch admitted in 1342-43 that the "paupertas" he favored was not that of the miserable beggar, but that of a "mediocritas" between wealth and destitution, a statement prefiguring the position taken a century later by Pico della Mirandola. Petrarch stated later in life that riches were preferable to "sordid poverty." But this questioning of the Stoic/Franciscan paradigm was not seriously taken up until a generation after Petrarch's death, when the Venetian nobleman Francesco Barbaro argued in 1415 that many virtues -- charity, gratitude, the pleasure of giving -- are impossible and therefore without value unless one has the substance to perform them. About the same time the identical message was taken up and widely propagated by Leonardo Bruni, the early fifteenth-century chancellor of the Florentine republic, who brought it into the political sphere. He discovered in Aristotle's Economics the assertion that the possession of material wealth "affords an opportunity for the exercise of virtue." It was a philosopher's job to study government, but also to examine the situation of the family, its property, and how to enhance its wealth, which implied that wealth and civic life were connected.46

     28. Championing the role of wealth in civic life might seem a contradiction of many of the attacks in Utopia upon the arrogance of noble power, its abuses in regard to tenants and servants, and its wallowing in idleness and luxury. But it is not that there was no wealth in the Utopian commonwealth; it was rather that, unlike contemporary Europe, it was equally distributed, and the nobility no longer existed. Moreover, the important feature of this arrangement was that it produced a social and political system that enjoyed low levels of crime, conflict, and instability, and high levels of civic participation, education, religious worship, and virtuous behavior. In the book's scheme of things, the key to these achievements was the equal distribution of wealth; without them, "Raphael" argued, we would be back in early sixteenth-century Europe.47 That More placed the issue of wealth at the forefront of the discussion put him in a position that was close to those of the civic humanists, as well as to his mid-fifteenth century compatriot Reginald Peacock, who about 1455 referred to riches as "instruments of virtue," and to his contemporary and friend Erasmus, who in 1519 argued that one must teach the wealthy, not to scorn wealth, but to make it a vehicle for virtue. Utopia was doing no less.48

     29. The flip-side of the acceptance of the virtuists' role of wealth in society and government was their critique of poverty. We have already seen Petrarch raising doubts about the "sordid" condition of "paupertas." In the 1430s Lapo da Castiglionchio the Younger, a protégé of Bruni and a papal secretary, thought it plausible to justify papal wealth. He first sought to eliminate the traditional Stoic charge of covetousness, which he did by a clever opposition to poverty and its effects. Riches might lead to corruption, luxury, and laziness, but poverty was even worse because it produced thieves, robbers, traitors, and murderers. Two years after the publication of Utopia Erasmus also questioned the Stoic position, arguing that anyone advocating the loss of freedom, hardship, and illness that went with poverty would have the message fall on deaf ears. "Possibly more people have been corrupted by poverty than by moderate wealth," he stated.49

     30. Criticisms of voluntary poverty were not limited to those who saw positive virtue in wealth. Early anti-clericals and evangelicals in England reviled what they considered to be the false poverty of the clergy. Simon Fish's vituperative tract of 1529 called them "strong, puissant, and counterfeit holy, and idle, beggars and vagabonds, which, since the time of their first entry by all the craft and wiliness of Satan, are now increased under your sight, not only into a great number, but also into a kingdom."50 These attacks upon voluntary poverty were reflected in official policy. Beginning in the second half of the fourteenth century English governments took institutional measures against the able-bodied poor, creating a special identity and separating them from the rest of the third estate. They issued royal proclamations; Parliaments passed statutes that denounced and legislated against idle "vagabonds" and false beggars.51 Virtually at the same moment that More was writing Utopia, the City of London was undertaking an overhaul of its policing of vagrants and its provision for the "true" poor.52 In the 1540s the City took the initiative to re-found its hospitals and to create the new institution of Bridewell in 1553, which was designed to reform criminals (mainly vagabonds and prostitutes), who were perceived to be following the "voluntary path." The ideas behind Bridewell were distinctly "humanist" -- to reform through punishment and training -- although those who carried out the foundation were actually City magistrates with evangelical leanings.53

     31. Thomas More was not alone in breaking with the three estates and organicism. Thomas Starkey's "Dialogue between Pole and Lupset" moved beyond the old theory, especially its denunciations of wealth. Through the statements of the dialogist "Pole," Starkey offered criticisms of poverty and praise for riches. These issues had psychological as well as physical dimensions according to "Pole." If someone were without wealth, or at least sufficient to maintain himself, "he shall be troubled in mind with infinite cares and miserable thoughts, because he sees well that without them this bodily weal will soon fade and vanish away. . . ." Further, "the lack of necessaries for the nourishing and clothing of the body, is the sure and certain cause of infinite miseries and manifold wretchedness. . . ."54 Poverty led to sickness and disability; it could even undermine society, because it inhibited people from maximizing their abilities and achievements. In a section that seems to anticipate Marx's materialism, the author warned that without prosperity a commonweal would succumb to poverty and, ultimately, to internal divisions. He observed that however well supplied with people a country might be, "yet if there be lack of necessaries {it cannot long prosper}, [and] there will shortly grow in all {kind of} misery, for great poverty in any country {has ever coupled great misery she} is the mother of envy and malice, dissension and debate, and many other mischiefs ensuing. . . ."55

     32. The positive side of wealth was its personal advantages, which were linked to "virtue," but also larger social benefits according to the "Pole" character. Prosperity "well used is the occasion of putting in exercise many honest and virtuous affects [sic] of men's mind, which else should be covered and cloaked and never come to light. . . ." Without "exterior and worldly things in convenient abundance . . . no man {can} have his most prosperous state," "Pole" asserted. For him, wealth was not simply a matter of income. It was linked to "virtue" in both senses of the term. The lack of it made one miserable and, the implication was, more likely to sin and break from conventional morality and "virtue." Poverty also tended to diminish one's ability to limit the "virtuous affects" [sic] of the mind, which could in turn limit one's virtù.56

     33. The reply of "Lupset" showed an acute understanding of the link between prosperity and virtue that "Pole" had made. "Lupset" took the Stoic and Franciscan line and questioned the connection between wealth and virtue, pointing out that if "the weal and felicity of every particular man" lay in one's wealth, then "few there be that have weal, few which be in prosperous {state} and felicity; the most part of mankind is excluded. . . ." In a passage on the poor reminiscent of the concluding section of Book II of Utopia, "Lupset" enumerated the causes of misfortune: "if a man be fallen into any great sickness or feebleness of body, or by any injury of fortune be cast into great poverty, or if his children or friends have any mischance . . ."; then "be he as perfect as ever was St. Paul, yet he is not in weal nor in prosperous state. . . ."57 In contradistinction to "Pole," "Lupset" cited the Franciscan position on poverty and "the opinion of many great wise men . . .", which held that one could be poor and still be virtuous. He cited "the doctrine of our master Christ, which calls them blessed which be ever in worldly adversity, patiently suffering it for his sake . . ."; also, the examples of the apostles and disciples, who were "simple and poor having no worldly prosperity, and yet think you will not say that they were in misery, but contrary that they were in high felicity. . . ." By contrast, those "which be in worldly prosperity he [Christ] notes to be miserable and wretched. . . ."58

     34. The reply by "Pole" was a telling defense of the link between virtue and worldly success. He first casuistically stated that if man were no more than a soul that was full of virtue, then he could not be affected by adversity, so that by definition "virtue had ever coupled with her high high [sic] felicity. . . ." But "Pole" took the argument further, saying that it was not only lack of hardship that went with a condition of virtuousness. He asserted that man "is not in the most perfect state, it is not in the highest degree, except there to be coupled worldly prosperity. . . ." When those two conditions were joined, he stated, the sky was the limit for the exercise of all kinds of virtues, and virtù: "this is certain that the mind of man {then} more flourishes, more rejoices and has more weal, when freely without any impediment, either of body or injury of fortune, it exercises virtues, acts and spreads her beams to the light and comfort of many other. . . . "59

     35. There would be room in heaven for both the poor and the rich. Though one was "troubled with all worldly adversity," one could still find salvation if one "patiently suffer it for the love {of} God. . . ." Likewise, material success "excludes not man from the most high felicity of the life to come"; in fact, if a person "use it well, it is also a means whereby he the better {may} attain to the same . . .". This was because "worldly prosperity is so full of manifold perils and dangers, by the which a negligent mind is soon oppressed. . . ." In fact, "Pole" argued, echoing Italian civic humanists, wealth was to be valued because of the very challenges it presented to being virtuous: "it is of many wise men judged much harder to be, well to use worldly prosperity, than patiently to suffer and bear all worldly adversity. . . ." Christ chose his disciples from among the poor because they were not subject to such great temptation as the wealthy. Yet he would exclude from heaven "neither they which have their hearts fixed in the love of riches of this world, neither they which have their minds drowned in the vain pleasures of this life. . . ."60 This was because they "can bear their minds upright in the straight use of the same, and for because the thing is of so great hardness and difficulty. . . ." "Pole" argued that such men submitted themselves to greater temptation than many others, including those "which for fear of the same dangers run into a religious house. . . ."61

     36. No man, he concluded, should be excluded from wealth just because only a minority could attain it. A stronger defense of wealth would be hard to discover, a position very much at odds with the organicists who, while stoutly denying the accusations that they attacked property rights, were at least prepared to treat property as a matter of stewardship. "Lupset" disagreed with the contentions of his fellow dialogist "Pole" and went back to his point that the soul alone was sufficient to achieve virtue. But "Pole" seemed to have the better of the argument since he had the last word, after which "Lupset" appeared to give up.62

     37. Like More and Starkey, Richard Morison singled out the poor as posing a special challenge in society and argued for their re-education and employment. Writing in response to the Pilgrimage of Grace (1536), Morison considered whether the rebellion arose from poverty and blamed voluntary idleness. The solution was training in manufacturing and full employment. Concerning the roots of rebellion, Morison paraphrased a rebel statement that "we evermore cry we be poor" and stated that "I admit it be so," while at the same time rejecting the idea that destitution was a justifiable reason for the overthrow of governments. The solution was that "there be handicrafts, there be honest occupations, whereby poverty may be driven away."63

     38. Unemployment, however, was not the product of impersonal market forces. Rather, following civic humanists, it was the result of personal choices that led to moral failings, even crime. To eradicate the problem Morison directed his readers to classical and contemporary examples where state and community controls were applied. He cited an ancient Egyptian king in whose reign "every man was commanded yearly to put his name in the common book and at the year's end to show the governor of the place where his abiding was [and] by what means he got his living." The upshot was that idleness was excised, wrongdoers were punished, and full employment achieved. The Athenians had similar legislation and, following Socrates and Plato, "will [have] no drone bees amongst them" especially the "young and lusty [that] neither have nor yet will learn any honest occupation to get their living in truth, but continuing in idleness fall to stealing, robbing, murder, and many other mischiefs." He also cited the Jewish populations of contemporary German and Italian cities that had no beggars, idlers, thieves, or murderers. He estimated that one third of England's population lived idly, which he claimed was twice as much as any other Christian nation. England's problem was that the land was too fertile and was too often left fallow. Summing up, Morison added that the sick poor should not "lack cherishing" but reaffirmed his rejection of voluntary idleness:

all good ordered commonwealths in time past abhorred these bellies that have no hands; these flies that feed upon other men's labors; these that being idle without any occupation, without lands, fees, wages, do nothing but complain of fortune, complain of them that be governors of the realm, and thus either sow sedition among the people or else be the fields themselves apt to bring forth such fruits.64

     39. The source of rebellion was not only poverty, since other places experienced greater destitution than England and yet had no uprisings. Rather "the root is lower; dig deeper, you may perchance find it." In line with the civic humanist agenda, he argued that "evil education, is a great cause of these and all other mischiefs that grow in a commonwealth." He again came back to the poor and unemployment as the sources of these problems, "for where so many lack honest occupations . . . , how can we lack any kind of mischief?" He believed that "the lack of honest crafts and the abundancy of idleness, albeit they be not the whole cause of sedition, yet as they breed thieves, murderers, and beggars, so not a little they provoke men or things like men to rebellion."65 What "education" really meant for Morison's poor were apprenticeship and manual labor, not the book-learning of the civic humanists

IV. The Not So Splendid Isolation of the Elizabethan Poor

     40. The leading Elizabethan social commentators William Harrison and Thomas Wilson completed the subdivision of the third estate by treating the poor as a separate "special case."66 They did so through analyses that based society on political power and the possession of property, which effectively isolated the poor since they had neither. The three-estate model was noticeably absent in their discussions. Harrison actually wrote a separate chapter about the poor. This was a milestone, not least because it isolated many of the poor from the rest of the third estate and treated a significant portion of them as pariahs. Harrison shrewdly observed that the poor were not only an English problem: "there is no commonwealth at this day in Europe wherein there is not great store of poor people. . . ." However, he provided the first detailed analysis of England's destitute, whom he divided into three groups -- the "poor by impotency," comprised of orphans, the elderly, the blind, lame, and the incurably sick; the "poor by casualty," including wounded veterans, poor householders, and those with bad diseases; and, the "thriftless," including rogues, vagabonds, and strumpets. He reported that the first two groups of "true poor" were "relieved by the wealthier sort" through traditional charity, but also by new, statutory weekly collections in parishes. If anyone refused to accept relief, wandered about, used "idle trades," thus joining the "thriftless," they could be prosecuted and "so, instead of courteous refreshing at home, are often corrected with sharp execution and whip of justice abroad."67

     41. Of the "thriftless" he distinguished two further groups, including one that was voluntarily poor and inflicted wounds upon themselves in order to gather alms, and a second that dressed up like laborers and servants and sailors, who "are all thieves and caterpillars in the commonwealth and by the Word of God not permitted to eat, since they do but lick the sweat from the true laborers' brows" and deprive the true poor of assistance. For his "documentation" Harrison cited at length the pamphlet by Thomas Harman, A Caveat for Common Cursitors (1566) and the 24 groups of vagabonds whom he claimed to have interviewed. Harrison completed his discussion of the poor with a description of the penalties for vagabondage, while adding yet a third group of thriftless with a list of vagrant professions under the law that included, among others, fortune-tellers, unlicensed actors, peddlers, and jugglers.68 With Harman and Harrison we are truly in the world of "the Elizabethan underworld"; long gone is any notion of social interdependence with these groups of the poor.

     42. Like Harrison, Thomas Wilson gave separate attention to the poor, whom he linked to the larger society, not through charity as an expression of organic inter-dependence, but through institutionalized labor that expanded the bridewell model to all the poor in urban communities, starting with children. In his discussion of towns and cities he described a remedy for poverty that F. J. Fisher characterized as "his own cool, amoral, appreciation of thrift and child labor. . . ."69 England, he suggested, was unique in that the poorest were "not suffered to be idle in their cities as they be in other parts of Christendom"; instead, every child from the age of six or seven "is forced to some art whereby he gains his own living and something besides to help to enrich his parents or master." Wilson cited facts and figures. At Norwich, he reported, they kept accounts that showed that children aged between six and ten who knit "fine jersey stockings" had produced £12,000 worth, each of them earning 4s. a week. Local merchants sold the goods in London and even abroad in France.70 Here was poverty being turned into profit through activist civic intervention. Was this not the civic humanist's social vision come true?

     43. In terms of social models, the early Tudor period (1485-1558) should not be labeled either medieval or early modern. Equally inappropriate because of its teleology, which would award labels of winners and losers, is the term "Renaissance." The persistence of the organicist model into the mid-Tudor period, including authors such as the commonwealth-men whom historians have considered radical in their economic and social positions, is striking evidence of the persistence of medieval thinking. Yet the period is not, tout court, one of medieval continuity and cultural lag. Radical redefinitions of wealth and poverty had taken place before 1500, and the humanists took them to new extremes between 1500 and 1550. The specific upshot for the conceptualizing of poverty was the isolation of the poor and the creation of special laws and institutions to deal with them. More broadly, the result was the break-up of organicist, three-estate theories and their supplanting by ones emphasizing social mobility, merit over birth, and the importance of property. Thus the foundations were laid for defining society in terms of political economy.



 Go to Craig Dionne's response. Go to The Electronic Seminar. 
Go to this issue's index. Send EMC your comments on this essay. 




1 George Clarke Sellery, The Renaissance: Its Nature and Origins (Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1950), ch.1.

2 Two excellent surveys are Robert Jütte, Poverty and Deviance in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994); Paul A. Fideler, Social Welfare in Pre-Industrial England (New York: Palgrave, 2006); although the latter is stronger on the late medieval period.

3 Christopher Dyer, Making a Living in the Middle Ages: the People of Britain (London: Yale University Press, 2002), 281.

4 Maria A. Moisa, "Fourteenth-century Preachers' Views of the Poor," in Culture, Ideology and Politics: Essays for Eric Hobsbawm, eds. Raphael Samuel & Gareth Stedman Jones (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1982), 166, 168-9.

5 Moisa, "Fourteenth-century Preachers' Views," 166-9.

6 Hans Baron, "Franciscan Poverty and Civic Wealth as Factors in the Rise of Humanistic Thought," Speculum, vol. 13, no. 1 (January 1938) is the locus classicus.

7 Quoted Geoffrey Shepherd, "Poverty in Piers Plowman" in Social Relations and Ideas: Essays in Honour of R. H. Hilton, eds. T. H. Aston, P. R. Coss, Christopher Dyer, Joan Thirsk, 171, 174. Langland also produced a taxonomy of false beggars and criminals that prefigures similar Elizabethan ones (173).

8 Brian Tierney, Medieval Poor Law; a Sketch of Canonical Theory and its Application in England (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1959).

9 See A. L. Beier, "'A New Serfdom': Labor Laws, Vagrancy Statutes, and Labor Discipline in England, 1350- 1800," in Cast Out: Vagrancy and Homelessness in Global and Historical Perspective, eds. A. L. Beier & Paul Ocobock (Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2008).

10 For an older account, see A. Abram, Social England in the Fifteenth Century: a Study of the Effects of Economic Conditions (London: Routledge and Sons, 1909), 126-130; Miri Rubin, Charity and Community in Medieval Cambridge (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), 92-98; Marjorie K. McIntosh, Controlling Misbehavior in England, 1370-1600 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 88-93. And, see the symposium on McIntosh's book, Journal of British Studies, vol. 37, no. 2 (July 1998).

11 I am thinking particularly of Lauro Martines, Power and Imagination: City-States in Renaissance Italy (New York: Knopf, 1979), which has a heavy fifteenth-century focus.

12 A. L. Beier, Masterless Men: the Vagrancy Problem in England, 1560-1640 (London: Methuen, 1985), 149.

13 A. L. Beier, "Foucault Redux?: The Roles of Humanism, Protestantism, and an Urban Elite in Creating the London Bridewell, 1500-1560," in Crime, Gender, and Sexuality in Criminal Prosecutions, ed. Louis A. Knafla, Criminal Justice History, vol. 17 (London: Greenwood Press, 2002).

14 The first statements are quoted in the classic account by G. Duby, The Three Orders: Feudal Society Imagined, transl. A. Goldhammer (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982), 5-6; Ruth Mohl, The Three Estates in Medieval and Renaissance Literature (New York: Columbia University Press, 1933; repr. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1962), 11-12. For an exception to the statement that Dudley is little noticed as endorsing the three-estates theory, see Keith Wrightson, Earthly Necessities: Economic Lives in Early Modern Britain (London: Yale University Press), 27-8.

15 Otto Gierke, Political Theories of the Middle Age, transl. F. W. Maitland (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1900; repr. 1987), 22. Cf. Duby, op.cit.; Michael Clanchy, "The most fundamental of all bonds in medieval society was that of mutual obligation": quoted by Wrightson, Earthly Necessities, 85.

16 V. H. Galbraith as cited by James Campbell, ed., The Anglo-Saxons (London: Penguin, 1982), 220.

17 Edmund Dudley, The Tree of Commonwealth, ed. D. M. Brodie (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1948), 33, 43.

18 Ibid. 44, 66, 81, 84, 91. The Oxford English Dictionary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2nd edn., 1989), defines a loveday as "A day appointed for a meeting with a view to the amicable settlement of a dispute; hence, an agreement entered into at such a meeting."

19 Ibid. 45-8.

20 David Daniell, William Tyndale: a Biography (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994), 170-2.

21 Doctrinal Treatises . . . by William Tyndale, ed. Henry Walter, Parker Society (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1848; repr. Johnson Reprint: New York, 1968), 95-6.

22 Tyndale, Doctrinal Treatises, 95, 99, 102-3.

23 National Archives (U.K.) E.36/197/fol. 100.

24 National Archives (U.K.) SP1/242/fols. 157-8 (repr. TED, III, p. 115).

25 National Archives (U.K.) SP1/242/fols. 173-4, 178-9 (repr. in Eileen Power & R. H. Tawney, eds., Tudor Economic Documents [hereafter TED] (Longman: London, 1924), III, pp. 121-3.

26 National Archives (U.K.) SP1/239/pt. 2/fols. 370-2 (repr. in TED, III, pp. 112-113.

27 Four Supplications, 1529-1553 A.D., ed. F. J. Furnivall, Early English Text Society, extra series, vol. 13 (London, 1871), xiv-xv, 81.

28 "Supplication of the Poor Commons," 72.

29 "Instructions to the Enclosure Commissioners Appointed June, 1548, and Hales' Charge to the Juries Impanelled to Present Enclosures," T.E.D., I, 42, 44.

30 Repr. in P. F. Tytler, England under the Reigns of Edward VI and Mary . . . (London, 1839), I, 115-116. "Maugre" appears to be an anglicizing of the French "malgré."

31 "The Defense of John Hales," in A Discourse of the Common Weal of this Realm of England, ed. Elizabeth Lamond (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1893; repr. 1954), lx.

32 The Select Works of Robert Crowley, ed. J. M. Cowper, Early English Text Society, extra series, vol. 15 (London, 1872), 169.

33 Crowley, Select Works, 168-9.

34 The Catechism of Thomas Becon with Other Pieces Written by Him in the Reign of King Edward the Sixth, ed. John Ayre, Parker Society (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1844), 599.

35 Thomas Lever, Sermons: 1550, ed. Edward Arber (English Reprints: London, 1870), 46-7.

36 Lever, Sermons, 43, 47, 49.

37 Ibid., 84, 106 (quotations).

38 Arthur O. Lovejoy, The Great Chain of Being: a Study of the History of an Idea (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1936; repr. New York: Harper, 1965), 19.

39 W. K. Jordan, ed. The Chronicle and Political Papers of King Edward VI (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1966), 161.

40 The Primer: or Book of Private Prayer, ed. J. Ketley, The Two Liturgies, A.D. 1549 AND A.D. 1552, Parker Society (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1844), 457-463: extracts printed by C. H. Williams, ed., English Historical Documents, 1485-1558 (London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1967), 336-7.

41 Martin Bucer, A Treatise How by the Word of God, Christian Men's Alms Ought to be Distributed (S.T.C. # 3965, n.p., n.d.), 6, 27. Pollard and Redrave indicate (A Short-Title Catalogue of Books Printed in England, Scotland, & Ireland and of English books Printed Abroad, 1475-1640, ed. A. W. Pollard & G. R. Redgrave, 2nd ed. (London : Bibliographical Society, 1976-1991), the pamphlet was printed abroad, possibly in 1557. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography states that the pamphlet was part of a larger publication De regno Christi, which was presented to Edward VI on Oct. 21, 1550, which was a blueprint for a "thorough reformation of English society," and which was published in the reign of Elizabeth I. In fact, the publication date is less important than the date of completion, which puts the tract squarely in the period of activism of the commonwealth-men.

42 Thomas More, Utopia, eds. George M. Logan & Robert M. Adams, Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought, eds. Raymond Geuss & Quentin Skinner (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 19. This translation by Adams was originally published by W.W. Norton & Co., 1975, which I have chosen to cite rather than the Yale University Press edition, because the latter contains translations of questionable quality according to Quentin Skinner, "Sir Thomas More's Utopia and the Language of Renaissance Humanism," ed. Anthony Pagden, The Languages of Political Theory in Early-Modern Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987; pbk. edn., 1990), 133, n. 61; 149, n. 156. The English spelling in the Adams translation has been Americanized here.

43 Utopia, 108-9.

44 Ibid. 38-40.

45 Ibid. 40.

46 Hans Baron, "Franciscan Poverty and Civic Wealth as Factors in the Rise of Humanistic Thought," Speculum, vol. 13, no. 1 (January 1938), 7, 11, 18-21. Cf. Skinner, Foundations of Modern Political Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1978), I, 43.

47 Here I follow Skinner ("Sir Thomas More's Utopia, 154), but push the argument a little further by focusing on the issue of wealth.

48 Baron, "Franciscan Poverty," 36-7. There were, of course, "vulgar" kinds of materialism (ibid. 28-9).

49 Quoted Baron, "Franciscan Poverty," 29-30, 37.

50 Four Supplications, 1529-1553 A.D. , ed. J. M. Cowper, Early English Text Society, Extra series, no. 13 (1871), 1.

51 See Beier, "'A New Serfdom': Labor Laws, Vagrancy Statutes, and Labor Discipline in England, 1350-1800," in Cast Out: Vagrancy and Homelessness in Global and Historical Perspective, eds. A. L. Beier & Paul W. Ocobock (Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2008).

52 Fideler, Social Welfare, 48.

53 Beier, "Foucault Redux?: The Roles of Humanism, Protestantism, and an Urban Elite in Creating the London Bridewell, 1500-1560," in Crime, Gender, and Sexuality in Criminal Prosecutions, ed. Louis A. Knafla, Criminal Justice History, vol. 17 (London: Greenwood Press, 2002).

54 T. F. Mayer, ed., Thomas Starkey. A Dialogue between Pole and Lupset, Camden Fourth Series, vol. 37 (London: Royal Historical Society, 1989), 24. Spelling modernized; curved brackets contain material added to the manuscript by Starkey.

55 Ibid. 34.

56 Ibid. 24-5.

57 Ibid. 27.

58 Ibid. 27.

59 Ibid. 28.

60 Ibid. 28-9.

61 Ibid. 29.

62 Ibid. 30-1.

63 David S. Berkowitz, ed., Humanist Scholarship and Public Order: Two Tracts against the Pilgrimage of Grace by Sir Richard Morison (London & Toronto, 1984), 124.

64 Ibid. 124-5, 131, 136-7.

65 Ibid. 128.

66 This is not to deny that some examples of organicist views of the poor and society appeared in Elizabethan texts, but I am certain that the way of the future lay with the virtuist position and hope to have the opportunity to document this in future publications. For suggestive overviews that confirm this position, see David George Hale, The Body Politic: a Political Metaphor in English Renaissance Literature (The Hague: Mouton, 1971), 108-131; Leonard Barkan, Nature's Work of Art: the Human Body as Image of the World (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1975), 70-1, 76, 100.

67 Ibid. 180-1.

68 William Harrison, The Description of England, ed. Georges Edelen (New York: Dover, repr. 1994; orig. pub., Washington, DC: Folger Shakespeare Library and Cornell University Press, 1968), 180-6.

69 The State of England, 1600, by Sir Thomas Wilson, ed. F.J. Fisher, Camden society, 3rd series, LII (1936), vi-vii. This edition is supplemented here with the slightly different one reprinted in Seventeenth-century Economic Documents, ed. Joan Thirsk & J. P. Cooper (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1973), 751-7.

70 Ibid. 20.



Form copyright © 2008 Early Modern Culture.

Content copyright © 2008 A. L. Beier.