The Poor Laws of 1597 and 1601 passed in haste at the end of the Elizabethan era went on to form the basis of social welfare provision for over two hundred years (Hobsbawm, 1962, p. 300). These limited yet frequently required measures were administered with the priority of only assisting the paupers, the old, the unemployed, and the underemployed who were considered to be genuine (Schama, 2002, p. 420). Anybody that the Poor Law administrators believed to be undesearving of assistance had to find work, rely on the charity of others, turn to crime, or face starvation (Hobsbawm, 1975 p. 80).
Sometimes to escape poverty in Britain, and to avoid the workhouse people emigrated to British colonies such as Australia, Canada, and New Zealand to build a better live for themselves. The state was content to promote emigration because it strengthened control over colonies whilst reducing the number of poor people in Britain seeking welfare and assistance (Ferguson, 2003 p. 75)
The politicians responsible for drafting and then passing the Poor Law Amendment Act in 1834 had the express objective of decreasing the cost of social welfare provision instead of broadening the scale not to mention the scope of the government’s involvement in society (Hobsbawm, 1962, p. 301). The Poor Law Amendment Act provided relief for the poorest and the less fortunate members of society but it came at a price for those people. It came at a price because the state in 1834 right through the rest of the 19th century aimed to tightly limit its role in providing welfare and assistance (Hobsbawm, 1987, p. 40). The restriction of state welfare and assistance measures to only the most desperate cases reflected the strong hold of classical liberal thought that the state should only intervene in economic affairs on a very limited basis (Eatwell & Wright, 2003 p.