Poverty has been a critical concern since the first voyages to the Americas. For centuries, societies recognized poverty as a part of social order and have felt the need to either prevent or eradicate need from existence. Whether it by political or secular rationalities, actions like the proclamation of English Poor Laws to the establishment of Poorhouses in the United States have attempted to improve the standards of those in need therefore, improving the status of society as a whole. Political, social, and economic events like the Protestant Reformation and the American Revolution have shaped the way in which poverty is dealt with and viewed. This, in turn, affected legislation and treatment of the poor.

The History of Poverty has been divided into three categories to explain the transformation of poverty throughout the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries.

(Image credit: Beard, James Henry. North Carolina Emigrants: Poor White Folks, 1845, Cincinnati Art Museum. wikepedia: