Widely regarded as one of the classics of post-war historical writing, this book shows how central the role of poverty has been throughout the history of Europe. It ranges across the period from the first millennium to the present day, casting a fresh and revealing perspective on the actions of individuals, groups and nations, and on the underlying nature of the greatest social changes the continent has experienced.Professor Geremek shows how the rich and those in authority have always expressed mixed feelings about the poor, oscillating between pity and fear, compassion and revulsion. He examines why this should have been so and discusses the effects it had on private and public actions. Even in the Middle Ages, the author suggests, there was little sentimentality. Then the poor had functions, as the means of securing divine salvation through the giving of alms, and as contractors who would pray for their benefactors.With the economic crises that afflicted Europe in the sixteenth century, mass proverty came to be seen as harmful and destabilizing, and new principles of modern poor relief were formulated to control it.
But the scale of poverty was increasing: first through rural change and then through industrial change. If absolute poverty became less evident, the gap between rich and poor had become more manifest. It is here, Professor Geremek shows, that the utopian ideals of socialism were born. Unrest could be contained in state welfare schemes, or it could be manipulated into revolution and the poor once more enslaved - this time in the name of their own interests.
"A wise, distinguished medieval historian, veteran of Poland's ownbattles with poverty, here extends himself over a millennium and acontinent to illuminate the constantly-changing social conditions, definitions, explanations, political measures, and charitableactions by which Europeans have generated, mitigated, andstigmatized material hardship." Charles Tilly
"A serious, meticulously researched history, Geremek's is a fineaccount of a fascinating and perennially topical subject."Literary Review
Introduction: What is Poverty?.
1. The Middle Ages: Charity and Salvation.
2. The Disintegration of Medieval Society.
3. Reformation and Repression: the 1520s.
4. The Reform of Charity.
5. Charitable Polemics: Local Politics and Reasons of State.
6. Prisons of Enlightenment.
7. Poverty and the Contemporary World.
Number Of Pages: 288
Published: 16th January 1991
Country of Publication: GB
Dimensions (cm): 22.94 x 15.29
Weight (kg): 0.44
Edition Number: 1