Christina Bobingerin was desperate. She was 19 years old in the summer of 1601, a peasant girl from the village of Göggingen just outside the walls of Augsburg. One day in June she sneaked into the city, trying to locate the soldier with whom she had been living some months earlier. He had long since abandoned her, but she had heard that he was in Augsburg and she thought if she found him he would have to take her back. As soon as she got into the city, however, Christina was arrested and jailed. Two days later she was interrogated.
This was not the first time Christina had been detained as an unwelcome visitor to Augsburg. At least half a dozen times before she had been arrested, whipped, led to the city gate and warned never to return. Knowing that she was unwanted, why did she insist on coming back? 'Do you really think', the authorities asked her gravely, 'that we should have to suffer such defiance from you?'
Christina's answer was simple. Sheer need had driven her to sneak into the city. No, she was not a prostitute, nor was she a thief. She had simply come to find her soldier or, failing that, to beg. But she was allowed to do neither. Once again she was banished from the city.1
Christina's story was repeated not hundreds but thousands of times in European cities of the early modern era. Every city had its share of male and female beggars and vagrants who were desperately trying to make a living while eluding the authorities. Almost every city also had its beadles and beggar-wardens whose job was to apprehend vagrants and lock them up, kick them out, or -- occasionally -- permit____________________