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Analyze Attitudes Toward and Responses to "the Poor" in Europe Between Approximately 1450 and 1700

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Autor:   •  February 25, 2012  •  Research Paper  •  1,141 Words (5 Pages)  •  5,935 Views

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Attitudes toward the poor varied between 1450 and 1700, some helped the poor because they felt sympathy toward them, while others believed that they had a religious responsibility to help the poor, unemployed and idle beggars were perceived negatively, these people were a burden and nuisance to society. Throughout Europe, more than eighty percent of the population was facing starvation. Widespread famine leads the poor to start begging for food and money. The fortunate few, the people with money, food, and land reacted in different ways towards the beggars. People with a strong religious background supported giving alms. While others thought that beggars were idle, worthless members in society. Those who could help out the poor at times were skeptical to do so, because the poor were viewed as inferior and the rich did not want to correlate with them. At times the poor were treated poorly because of their low place in society.

The minority of the population, the wealthy, would give alms to the people because they felt sympathy for them. Governments throughout Europe had to deal with the growing lower class, famine, and sick. In Europe, people in control were trying to find ways to solve these problems by helping the lower classes. Including the Town council of Dijon, France in 1482, trying to help the homeless their resolution said that, "In order to care for the poor begging creatures and the poor children who go shrieking at night throughout the city, we will rent at this city's cost a barn or other place to put them in for the night and to care for them as well as possible." (Doc 2). Although this does not solve the problem, it shows that the people cared about the less fortunate and tried to help them, even if the help was small. This town council only found a tiny solution for a big problem. Throughout France around these times, the majority of the population was poor and people were under these situations all around the country. Building a barn will offer some of the poor housing but it will obviously not solve the main issue. But at least they are addressing the problem and attempting to fix it, even though the resolution has not truly resolved anything. The sympathy the wealthy had towards the poor caused them to willingly give their money to those in need. Poverty, death, sickness, and famine was everywhere throughout the country. People had to beg so that they could get the essential things in life. Those that could help the poor at times did; this is shown in the painting by Rembradt van Rijn, named Beggars Receiving Alms at the Door of a House, this painting was made in the Netherlands, 1648. (Doc 9). The picture shows the usual exchange between the poor and the wealthy. It demonstrates that the wealthy gave back too, even though they did not give a lot. Most of the time, they gave back to the poor for their own self-interest.

At times, for the rich, helping the poor was considered a religious responsibility. Between the middle of the fifteenth century and the 1700s, religion was very important in every social class. Religion defined your profession, who you were associated with and it even influenced where you lived. Priests preached about giving and how God perceived acts of kindness, like giving money.


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