Fattigvården på den svenska landsbygden år 1829
Sammanfattning: The source material for this study is 2,217 letters written by parish priests, describing the system of poor relief existing in almost all parishes in Sweden in 1829. The contents of these letters have been systematically processed in order to give the most complete picture possible of public assistance to the poverty-stricken in that year. Most parishes had some form of public assistance scheme. The form varied, however, widely, both regionally and locally. The factors dictating this form in the individual parishes were: the prevailing attitude to poverty and the poor, the economic structure of the region and the wealth of the parishioners. Strong control was exerted over both takers and givers. Only a small portion of the parish poor had any chance of becoming beneficiaries of poor relief. In 1829, there were about 67,000 paupers in the country, which amounted to 2.1 per cent of the population, the majority of whom came from the agrarian lower classes. Most of these were unmarried women and widows. Eighteen per cent of all widows in the country were paupers. The most vulnerable groups of paupers were the orphaned children and the sick, the difference being that where children were viewed as an investment, the sick were seen only as a burden. Almost all parishes had a poor relief fund, which on average amounted to 500 riksdaler, but could amount to as much as over 2,000 riksdaler. 1,276 poor-houses of varying size and quality were registered. Most of these were to be found in the middle belt of southern Sweden. It has been possible to distinguish different types of public assistance schemes. In the "beggar parishes” there was no organized assistance at all, and begging was considered fully acceptable as a form of assistance. In other parishes a paternalistic system was adopted, where landowners and mill owners were required to bear the whole or part of the responsibility for the support of the paupers who fell on their lot. Some parishes encouraged itinerancy and let their paupers wander or be transported from farm to farm and stay a certain time in each place. This was above all the case in northern Sweden. Some parishes subdivided the assistance structure into smaller districts, which sometimes functioned quite independently of each other. The most advanced form of poor relief was the annual donation in kind by the farmers in the area. This was done in about half of the country’s parishes and was most usual in middle Sweden. The amount of poor relief varied much, but not even the highest levels were enough to cover annual needs. Paupers were therefore forced to either work or beg. Parish councils sometimes tried to organize work so that ablebodied persons could get a chance to earn their keep.
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