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From Reformation to ImprovementPublic Welfare in Early Modern England$
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Paul Slack

Print publication date: 1998

Print ISBN-13: 9780198206613

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198206613.001.0001

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The Common Weal

The Common Weal

(p.5) 1 The Common Weal
From Reformation to Improvement

Paul Slack

Oxford University Press

The discussion in this chapter starts in 1500, and considers the period up to the 1560s as a single entity. Over that period, projects, policies, and civic activity for welfare purposes all came together for the first time under a single banner — that of the common weal — and it was carried forward by combined forces of unusual variety and determination. It was recognizably the first of a number of similarly constituted cycles of innovation and diffusion which can be identified in the evolution of welfare policy and practice. In the case of the common weal, this chapter looks first at what the banner may have signified for its several carriers, and then at how they employed it to practical effect. Before the 1540s, the common weal was a rhetorical slogan conferring legitimacy on almost any public activity, and it was in origin simply a translation of a commonplace aspiration: an Englishing of the comen profit, comen bien, or bien publique to which fifteenth-century statutes had appealed.

Keywords:   civic activity, welfare, early sixteenth century, common weal

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