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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 Public Good

The Public Good

(p.77) 4 The Public Good
From Reformation to Improvement

Paul Slack

Oxford University Press

The Poor Man's Friend was one of a dozen tracts published between 1645 and 1653, all concerned with the problem of poverty, and all employing the same language to the same kinds of end. It lies in the way that they yoked together aspects of public welfare, from poor relief to reform of the environment, and imbued them with a common sense of purpose. William Petty's death in 1687 marked the end of the first, pioneering phase of improvement. The ideology of improvement for the public good had proved more successful than the absolute power of the early Stuarts in yoking together private and public enterprise in common purpose. Restoration England had notably failed to produce that authority to which Hartlib and his successors looked for reconciliation, not only between public and private interests but between their goals of decisive public action and the free exchange of information.

Keywords:   The Poor Man's Friend, William Petty, Hartlib, poverty

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