The Statute of Cambridge 1388 (12 Ric. II c. 7) is generally considered to be the earliest English poor law.[1]

In the aftermath of the Black Death (1348–1349) labour was in short supply, which led to labourers wandering the country in search of higher wages. The 1388 legislation introduced restrictions of the movement of labourers and vagabonds, prohibiting any labourer from leaving the area in which he was living; any labourer wishing to leave his hundredAdministrative subdivision of a shire. needed authorisation from the local justice of the peace, without which he was liable to be placed in the stocks.[1]

But it also imposed a duty on the hundreds to provide support for their “impotent poor”, those who through age or infirmity were unable to work.[1]

The Statute is so-named because in 1388 the English parliament sat in Cambridge.[2]