By Elaine Clark
Journal of Family History, Vol.4:7 (1982)
Abstract: Medieval historians have long maintained that social welfare in the communities of rural England often involved private systems of support for the elderly. Individually arranged pension plans provide a case in point. The best evidence of these pension plans is found in the records of manor courts. To read the records is to learn how pension plans enabled the elderly to adjust their needs to local patterns of production and domestic structure, to law, to expressions of personal autonomy. and the confines of personal dependency.
Simply stated, the old accommodated their needs for support by looking to benefactors to manage their lands and tenements. The subsequent arrangement involved a contractual agree ment designed both to ensure and to supplement familial support, and also, under certain circumstances, to provide a substitute for it. As a result, not even peasants without children or spouses necessarily experienced dislocation. Contracts assured cooperation. They afforded the partners a way to negotiate mutually beneficial bargains wherein the conditional transfer of property was meant to guarantee securitv during retirement.