The Oxford Companion to British History

By John Cannon | Go to book overview


vaccination, a term first used by *Jenner ( 1798) for inoculating cowpox matter (vacca = cow) to produce immunity from the far more virulent smallpox, has since come to mean the creation of immunity from infectious diseases in general. Its benign effect on death rates from smallpox led to gradual abandonment of earlier techniques, but not without opposition. The 1840 Vaccination Act prohibited inoculation and permitted vaccination of the poor at ratepayers' expense; the 1853 extension made the practice compulsory, though it was not universally enforced. An organized movement to repeal compulsory vaccination developed after 1871, leading eventually to amendments of previous statutes ( 1898). Nevertheless, with compulsory notification of infectious diseases and better trained public health officers, vaccination and revaccination rapidly reduced the prevalence, morbidity, and mortality of smallpox. Subsequent vaccines (using attenuated or altered viruses) against diphtheria, polio, measles, whooping cough, and rubella have largely controlled these diseases.


Vagrancy Acts. Vagrancy was a phenomenon which particularly worried late medieval and Tudor society, not merely because it often led to crime, but because 'masterless men' seemed to threaten the whole social structure. The breakdown of the authority of lords of the manor freed men and women to move, and unemployment, demobilization, enclosures, and high prices could combine to produce destitution and vagrancy. London, by far the largest town in the country, produced its own vagrants and imported others from the neighbouring counties. In 1608 Thomas Dekker, the playwright, wrote that suburbs were 'caves where monsters are bred up to devour the cities themselves'.

One of the earliest government interventions came in 1351, after the *Black Death had caused an acute shortage of labour. The statute attempted not only to control wages and enforce contracts but declared punishment for persons fleeing from one shire to another. Another flurry of legislation came after the *Peasants' Revolt of 1381. An Act of 1383 authorized JPs to apprehend vagabonds and another Act of 1388 insisted that anyone leaving his abode or service must carry letters patent from the hundred explaining the purpose of his journey. Tudor legislation on the subject was both frequent and fierce. The Parliament of Henry VII in 1495 enacted that vagabonds should be put in the stocks for three days and three nights on bread and water. Henry VIII improved upon this in 1531 declaring that an able-bodied vagrant should be 'tied to the end of a cart naked and be beaten with whips till his body be bloody', and then sent back to his place of birth or last employment. In 1535 it was announced that on a second offence any 'valiant beggar or sturdy vagabond' would lose part of his right ear, and on a third offence would be hanged. Branding was introduced in 1547 and the vagabond was to be sold into slavery. By 1572 they were to be flogged and have their ears bored and by 1604 they would be branded on their shoulder with the letter 'R' for rogue. Hanging for repeat offences was certainly no idle threat: four vagrants, including one woman, were hanged in Middlesex in 1575/6. Transportation was also introduced after 1597, mainly to the new American colonies. A different approach was *Bridewells, where work was provided: opened in London in 1553, they were soon imitated in other towns and counties. After the Restoration the problem of vagrancy diminished, partly because paupers were given help in their parishes of origin, partly because an expanding economy provided better opportunities for employment. The increasing expense of *poor relief led in the early 19th cent. to reorganization of the whole system, but vagabondage had ceased to terrify.


Valence, Aymer de, earl of Pembroke (c.1270-1324). Valence's father William was a half-brother of Henry III, being a son of John's widow Isabella by her second marriage, and came to England in 1247. He fought on the king's side in the baronial wars and commanded against the Welsh in the 1280s. Aymer de Valence inherited in 1296 and spent his early years campaigning in Scotland, fighting at *Falkirk (1298) and defeating Robert I Bruce at * Methven in 1306. The following year he was himself defeated by Bruce at * Loudoun Hill. In 1307 he was recognized as earl of Pembroke by virtue of his mother, a granddaughter of William *Marshal, earl of Pembroke (d. 1219). In Edward II's reign he was at first an *Ordainer but switched to the king's side after the murder of *Gaveston, who was seized from his custody. He fought with the king at *Bannockburn and was subsequently employed watching the Scots and on diplomatic missions. His widow founded Pembroke College, Cambridge.


Vanbrugh, Sir John ( 1664-1726). Dramatist and architect. A good imitation of Renaissance Man, Vanbrugh was of


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The Oxford Companion to British History
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Ppreace vii
  • Contributors ix
  • Acknowledgements xi
  • Note to the Reader xii
  • A 1
  • B 71
  • C 149
  • D 273
  • E 318
  • F 363
  • G 399
  • H 445
  • I 503
  • J 523
  • K 541
  • L 553
  • M 602
  • N 666
  • O 701
  • P 717
  • Q 782
  • R 785
  • S 831
  • T 907
  • U 941
  • V 951
  • W 960
  • Y 1008
  • Z 1015
  • Subject Index 1034


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