1st Edition

Poor Relief and Protestantism The Evolution of Social Welfare in Sixteenth-Century Emden

By Timothy G. Fehler Copyright 1998

    This is a study of the organisation and practical operation of the system of poor relief in Emden from the late 15th century to the end of the 16th. The city went through dramatic economic, confessional and constitutional changes during this period and so offers an ideal setting for the study of the emergence and development of a highly organised, multi-jurisdictional system of social welfare in the early modern period. Utilising account books, church council minutes, wills, contracts, correspondence and guild records it focuses on the day-to-day operation of poor relief - how the many diverse institutions actually functioned. As elsewhere in Europe, the Reformation did not immediately result in swift changes in poor relief; the Roman Catholic components of the administration of social welfare were dissolved and replaced gradually. It was only when the vast changes in religious, social and economic life which occurred at the middle of the 16th century forced matters that the methods of relief for the needy were revolutionised. The city was flooded with refugees from the Dutch revolt, there were widespread and severe economic difficulties caused by bad harvests and skyrocketing prices, and the church underwent a period of intense Calvinisation; only then were Reformed institutions and methods introduced. At times, religious arguments dominated the poor relief debate, while at others the social welfare system was barely affected; the effectiveness of the new systems and institutions is illuminated by an analysis of the recipients of relief during the second half of the 16th century.

    Contents: Introduction; Pre-Reformation poor relief in Emden; Social welfare after the Reformation (c. 1525-50); The evolution of new social welfare institutions; The administration of poor relief in the second half of the 16th century; Social welfare and minority groups in Calvinist Emden; Church discipline, social disciplining and poor relief; Emden and the development of ’reformed’ social welfare; Appendix: about the currency; Bibliography; Index.


    Timothy G. Fehler

    'An excellent addition for any academic library.' Choice, Vol. 37, no. 6 'Fehler's nuanced understanding of social welfare in the Reformation is a welcome contribution to the historiography of this subject.' Lutheran Quarterly '... adds nuance ot scholarly discussion... Meticulously researched and carefully argued, Timothy Fehler's monograph makes a contribution to scholarship on both poor relief and protestantism and should be required reading for those interested in confessionalization in sixteenth-century Europe.' Church History, Vol. 69 '... a carefully researched and well-written book, helping to expand our knowledge of life in the sixteenth century urban world, with its attendant problems and attempted solutions.' Calvin Theological Journal, Vol. 35 '... a solid contribution to the history of poverty and charity in early modern Europe. Fehler interprets his sources with care... he can speak with precision.' Sixteenth Century Journal XXXII 'Fehler's work constitutes an important case study and a reminder that the transformation of Europe's political, economic, and social structures in the sixteenth century, in Protestant as in Catholic lands, can never be satisfactorily explained by the introduction of novel religious doctrines and practices alone.... englightening and timely.' Journal of Church and State