A Pauper’s History of England: 1,000 Years of Peasants, Beggars and Guttersnipes

by Peter Stubley

Peter Stubley’s book explores the people on the lowest rung of England’s history from the Doomsday book of 1086, through to the peasant’s revolt of 1831, onto Tudor England and the Victorian age. Peasants, beggars, prostitutes, pickpockets, conmen, the insane and many more are explored through the pages of this fascinating book.

At first glance this book may appear depressing, examining the lives of people who could often not even feed themselves, but the author takes on a different strategy to tell these stories. Instead of delving headfirst into the grime and misery of England’s history, the author acts as a guide, and we the reader are walked through the streets and homes of these vastly different people. The entire book is written as though the reader is on a journey, Stubley our guide, encouraging us to look right at a pickpocket in action or left at a conman selling his wares. We the reader are able to explore different places, poor houses, back streets, asylums and even homes all while sitting in the comfort and safety of our own lives! I thought this was an absolutely fantastic idea as not only is it a different and interesting way to explore history, it also allows the reader not to get bogged down in the heaviness of the subject.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I learnt a great deal about the darker, poorer side of England throughout the centuries as well as the various and evolving poor relief schemes and laws that were created to try and help the destitute. Definitely a must read!

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