By Tim Lambert

1500 The Church gives alms to the poor

1530 A law says the old and disabled are to be given licences to beg. Anyone wondering about without a job is to be whipped and sent back to the parish where they were born.

1547 An even more severe law is passed allowing persistent vagabonds to be made slaves

1550 The law of 1547 is repealed but flogging is still used as a punishment

1601 Parish overseers are appointed to force people to pay a local tax to help the poor

1697 A law says paupers must wear a blue or red 'p' on their clothes

1723 Parishes are allowed to build workhouses to house the destitute

1792 Magistrates at Speenhamland devise a system for helping the poor

1834 The law is changed. The poor must enter workhouses where conditions are made as harsh as possible.

1878 William Booth founds the Salvation Army

1900 At least 15% of the population live at subsistence level. Another 10% live below subsistence level.

1906 The government starts to provide free school meals

1909 The first old age pensions are paid. Wages councils are formed to set minimum pay levels in certain industries.

1911 A law is passed providing sickness benefits and unemployment benefits for workers in certain industries

<1920 Unemployment benefit is extended to most workers

1924 A survey shows the number of people living below subsistence level has fallen to about 4%

1930 A survey in London shows about 10% of the population are living at subsistence level

1936 A survey shows about 4% of the population are living at subsistence level

1951 The new welfare state has greatly reduced hardship in Britain

1980s The gap between rich and poor widens

A history of poverty

A history of rich people

A history of unemployment

A history of English Society