Despite all the economic optimism to which the previous chapters testify, poverty and economic inequality were the order of the day. Symbolically, Adam Smith’s An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, dealing with wealth, was preceded by a book titled An Enquiry into the Causes of the Encrease and Miseries of the Poor of England (1738). Widespread poverty in the early modern period indeed was a matter of fact. 1 Paupers, beggars and vagrants were everywhere and dwelled amidst the better-off. Groups of hungry poor wandered from place to place, in search of food and work. Malnutrition, starvation and child labour were not exceptional but common phenomena in this otherwise progressive age. Some of the causes of these troubles, like recurring crop failures, epidemics and wars, were of all times. Others, such as the price revolution, the restructuring of industry and the rise of capitalism more general were peculiar to the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The period undoubtedly witnessed substantial economic advancement, but brought no change in the great economic inequality that it inherited from the late Middle Ages. Unemployment, impoverishment and vagabondage were structural problems that were aggravated rather than countered by the agrarian and commercial expansion of pre-Industrial Europe.