The origins and development of institutional welfare support in early modern Württemberg, c.1500–1700

Paul Warde

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This article examines the development of formal poor-relief provision across the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in rural Germany, through a case study of a district of the Duchy of Württemberg. It presents a detailed picture of practices to support the poor, whether through payments and alms from the poor chest, institutions providing credit, common rights or village and town granaries. In building up a picture of institutional practice, it also presents extensive information on the recipients of relief. It is argued that both the institutional framework and new trends in its development during the period ante-dated the Reformation, and that this society enjoyed a wide and varied capacity to support the poor that bears comparison with the English Old Poor Law. However, in a differing socio-economic context, demand for support remained more limited, and the demographic catastrophe of the Thirty Years' War arrested trends towards increasingly formalized collections, pensions and doles.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)459-487
Number of pages29
JournalContinuity and Change
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2007

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