What was life like for the rural poor in 18th century England? Just as new agricultural technology was replacing farm workers with machines, medical advances were improving life expectancy. The result in the rural East Anglian county of Suffolk was a scarcity of employment that left many without the means to support themselves or their families. In this fascinating glimpse into community action at a local level, Victor Peskett reveals in this book the workings of the Guardians of the Poor in Metfield, Suffolk, a village committee with powers to levy a charge on the community and, after close examination, disperse funds to support the poor, according to their needs and their means. Peskett's painstaking research into the minutes of the Guardians' meetings has uncovered not the dry transactions of a local administrative committee, but an illumination of the past two short centuries ago. From the old vellum-bound, hand-written record emerge characters we come to know - their clothes, their few possessions, their daily transactions and their squabbles but, most of all, their urgent and basic needs at a time when progress seemed to be leaving them behind.