Post Reformation English Government

There’s not a lot of information around on how England changed from being largely managed by religious houses to the monetarised Tudor system, including the infamous ‘Locust Years’ of the Stuarts. The Normans introduced huge flocks of sheep on the downs, but this changed to wheat growing, but ironically a large increase in meat consumption – all those images of gouty men in the 18th century.

This is from Charlotte M. Waters’ An Economic History of England 1066-1874, covering 1500-1660:

“The corn policy of he government depended on 3 factors: the desirability of inducing farmers to grow corn instead of sheep, the necessities of the towns especially of London and the importance of preventing distress among the poorest of the people. Of these the last 2 outweighed the first and exportation of corn was strictly controlled, as were the doings of corn-badgers ad other middlemen. At the same time the farmers did get a guarantee of a minimum price, though a low one.

during this 150 years the control of industry passed entirely to the central government. The policy of Elizabeth was holly in favour of corporate wont’s and the regulated companies, and there was much legislation to prevent the growth of manufactures in new districts. Within the industries the government aimed at stability and order passing laws to prevent a man changing his trade easily, to secure a sufficiency of agricultural labour by enforcing it on the majority of those born in rural districts, enforcing a universal 7 years’ apprenticeship, and preventing casual employment. Wages were fixed by the Justices of the Peace.

The Stuarts continued the policy of minute central regulation of close corporations and monopolies, which alienated eventually most of the trading and industrial class.

The tudor and Stuart instrument of government was not Parliament but the Privy council. This powerful body had its eye and hand in every corner of the realm and controlled the minuets details. Its instruments to secure power were the Courts of the Star Chamber and of Requests, both powerful enough to deal with the haughtiest offender.

After a century of experiment, a series of Acts for he Relief of the Poor and the Suppression of Rogues was passed in 1597 and remained the basis four Poor Law till 1833. It aimed at succouring the sick, aged, and impotent, at training the fatherless child, providing work for those unemployed who were willing to work and forcing to work the wilfully idle, the rogue, and the vagabond. the units of administration were the parish and the county and the officers were under the control of the Privy Council It reached its greatest efficiency under the absolute government of Charles I.”


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