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A Tudor Tale

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Many who study history have heard about the Tudor Poor Laws and how in many parts of Tudor era Britain the population was overcrowded and fears ran rampant. Among the social elite, the dangers posed to society were by those that could not, or simply would not find suitable work.

These vagabonds were treated extremely cruelly by the law. The laws included such gruesome methods of discouraging begging as tying the accused to carts and whipping them across the street before banishing them from the city.

A later law was issued (yet not enforced) that made the crime of begging punishable by being made into a slave for several years. If the victim attempted to flee, their sentence would be becoming a slave for the rest of their life.

What historians don't speak about, however, were the attempts by certain vigilantes of the era to "discourage" begging - one of which involved a group of higher-class men who would gather in secret and kill suspected vagabonds, spiriting their bodies away to elaborate parties held by the group at night where they were alleged to have dined on small portions of the victim's body before burning the rest.

These gruesome vigilantes would continue their own form of "justice" long after the Tudor era and survived in small pockets up until the practice of exiling prisoners to America and later Australia arrived, which they tried to resist, but ultimately failed.

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