Susan Brigden, New Worlds, Lost Worlds: The Rule of the Tudors (Penguin, 2000)
John Guy, Tudor England (Oxford, 1988)
Joel Hurstfield and Alan G. R. Smith (eds.), Elizabethan People: State and Society (Edward Arnold, 1972)
Kentish Souces: IV The Poor (Kent County Council, 1964)
Pat Thane, Old Age in English History (Oxford University Press, 2000)
Joyce Youings, Sixteenth-Century England (Penguin, 1984)
|These almshouses at Hungerford, Wiltshire|
date from the seventeenth century,
and are a particularly good example
of private (as opposed to parish) poor relief
in early-modern England
At the beginning of the sixteenth century, the population of the British Isles was still small.
England and Wales: 2.25m.
For a while the relatively high living standards of the fifteenth century continued, but from the 1520s agrarian society was subjected to sustained population pressure. In spite of the pressures of famine and disease, the population had risen to above 4 million by the 1590s.
It has been estimated that England contained about 8 million sheep, or three to every human, and with the extermination of the wolf, sheep had no natural predators. The growth of the sheep population was a response to the population decline of the 15th century and the demands of the cloth trade - but when the population began to rise in the early 16th century the complaint was that ‘sheep do eat up men’. Pastoral farming for wool, leather and meat took up large areas of arable land as enclosed fields. In 1496 there were enclosure riots around Coventry and in 1549 the issue of enclosure almost provoked revolution.