Poor Relief


About 25% of Amsterdam’s population received assistance on a regular basis during the first half of the 19th Century. The Church funded three quarters of poor relief, the rest was funded by the municipality of Amsterdam. Poor relief went mainly towards supporting the sick; the elderly; widows with children; large families; and occasionally poor single women.

The families that received regular assistance usually received between 10 and 25 guilders per year (for comparison: a man in the lowest wage category, working regularly, earned 230 guilders per year). No one could survive on charity alone.

Each of the religious charities (funded by voluntary donations) provided relief only to people who had been church members for a certain number of years. The Municipal Charity (funded by taxes) offered assistance to poor Protestants who were not aided by one of the religious charities. Amsterdam obtained the majority of its revenue from taxes on food, therefore the poor were paying a good proportion of their own poor relief.

SOURCE: “The Logic of Charity: Amsterdam, 1800-1850” by Leeuwen, Marco H. D. van (reviewed by Boyer, George R. on E.H.Net).

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