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The origins of modern welfare: city of Ypres, the government of poor relief.


Paul Spicker


The two books included in The Origins of Modern Welfare are probably the earliest studies ever written in the field of Social Policy, and among the earliest written about public administration. Social Policy is the study of welfare, policy and administration. The field of study developed mainly to meet the needs of professionals and policy makers working in related subject areas, and although the subject has seen considerable expansion and development in recent years, the core of its area of interest continues to be an understanding of the nature, purpose and methods through which welfare is delivered. The book in this first volume, by Juan-Luis Vives, makes proposals for the organisation of social welfare provision. It was written for the Senate of Bruges, at the request of a former Prefect, and despite a nominal date of 1525 it was published early in 1526. It combines a set of theoretical arguments and a literature review, with detailed prescriptions for the management and administration of social welfare provision in the city. This book has some claim to be the first ever published on social policy. There have been various social policies since ancient times, and of course there were things written about welfare and charity. However, most of what had been written before these documents appeared -in the Bible or the Talmud, Maimonides in the Mishneh Torah(Maimonides, 1180), or Luther's Ordinances on a common chest(Salter, 1926) -were laws, policies or instructions, rather than discussions of the subject. Aquinas’s discussion of beneficence and alms giving in the Summa Theologicais also relevant (Aquinas, c. 1274, II-II, questions 31 and 32), but it is still mainly about the moral duty of charity, not about social welfare. None of these works is recognisable as a study of the social policy in the contemporary sense. This one is.


SPICKER, P. (eds.) 2020. The origins of modern welfare: city of Ypres, the government of poor relief. 2020 edition. Oxford: Peter Lang. Hosted on Paul Spicker's blog [online], 2. Available from:

Book Type Edited Book
Online Publication Date Mar 3, 2011
Publication Date Dec 31, 2020
Deposit Date Mar 1, 2021
Publicly Available Date Mar 1, 2021
Publisher Peter Lang International Academic Publishers
Edition 2020 edition
ISBN 9783034301664
Keywords Policy; Administration; Policy makers; Welfare; Public administration; Social policy
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Additional Information Originally published by Peter Lang as: SPICKER, P. (eds.) 2010. The origins of modern welfare: Juan Luis Vives, 'de subventione pauperum' and city of Ypre 'forma subventionis paupernum'. Oxford: Peter Lang [online]. Available from:


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