Daily life in tudor times


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With the rise in population during the 16th century jobs were not always easy to find. In Tudor times there were thousands of people without jobs wandering around looking for work. There were also disabled beggars. There were also people who pretended to be mad or disabled in order to beg. Tudor governments tolerated people who were disabled begging. However they did not tolerate able-bodied people without jobs wandering around. They saw such 'sturdy vagabonds' as a threat to law and order. They were treated very harshly. (6)

Since the 14th century there had been laws against vagabonds but in 1530 a new law was passed. The old and disabled poor were to be given licences to beg. However anyone roaming without a job was tied to a cart in the nearest market town and whipped till they were bloody. They were then forced to return to the parish where they had been born or where they had lived for the last 3 years. (7)

A law of 1536 was more severe. Vagabonds were whipped the first time. However for a second offence they part of their right ear was cut off (so they could be easily identified wherever they went). For a third offence they were hanged. However officers of the law were reluctant to carry out such terrible punishments. A law of 1547 chided them for 'foolish pity and mercy'. This terrible law was abolished in 1550. Once again flogging was made the punishment for vagrancy – wandering around the countryside without looking for work. (8)

Furthermore every parish was commanded to build a workhouse for the old and disabled poor. They would be housed in the workhouse and made to do any work they were capable of. However in 1572 the law was made more severe again. For a first offence a vagabond would be whipped and burned in the right ear with a red-hot iron. (Unless some kindly employer was willing to give him a job). For a second offence he would be hanged (again unless an employer gave him a job). For a third offence he would be hanged regardless. (9)

In 1576 the law regarding the old and disabled was changed again. This time the parishes were ordered to supply them with materials like flax, hemp, wool and iron. They were to do any work they could in their own homes. Any old or disabled person who refused to work was sent to a House of Correction where conditions were very harsh. However, in 1597 the death penalty for being a vagabond was abolished in England. (10)

1) Why do you think the population of England grew so quickly in the 16th century? (1 mark)

2) List 4 industries that became very successful in the 16th century? (2 marks)

3) Who owned most of the land in Tudor times? (1 mark)

Rich merchants



4) The subsistence level meant... (1 mark)

People who had food, clothes and shelter

People who had just enough food, clothes and shelter.

People who could buy a coat of arms.

4) Explain the difference between yeomen farmers and tenant farmers? (2 mark)

5) Explain why barons lost so much of their power in the 16th century. (1 mark)

6) Why was work difficult to find in Tudor times? (2 marks)

7) Who were the ‘sturdy vagabonds’? (1 mark)

8) List the three severe punishments that were introduced in 1536? (2 marks)

9) How could a vagabond be saved from a terrible punishment? (1mark)

10) Explain why a vagabond might be hanged? (2 marks)

11) Why do you think the death penalty for being a vagabond was finally abolished in 1597? (2 marks)

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